England captain Owen Farrell out of Six Nations

Farrell’s injury comes with the tournament opener against Scotland at Murrayfield just 10 days away

Ben Burrows
Wednesday 26 January 2022 12:37
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<p>Farrell is set to miss the entirety of the tournament </p>

Farrell is set to miss the entirety of the tournament

England captain Owen Farrell will miss the whole of the Six Nations, it has been confirmed.

Head coach Eddie Jones explained at the tournament launch on Wednesday morning that his skipper suffered a “freak” injury to his ankle in Saracens training that requires surgery.

Farrell’s injury follows similar concern around wing Jonny May while prop Joe Marler has withdrawn from the squad after testing positive for Covid.

The 30-year-old has not played since injuring his other ankle during the win over Australia at Twickenham in November.

He was set to return for Saracens on Sunday before suffering this setback. A spokesman confirmed they expect his recovery to now be between eight and 10 weeks.

“Owen has had his operation so he’ll be out of the Six Nations,” Jones said. “[It is a] massive blow for him personally, but it’s a chance for people to step up.

“It’s an opportunity for other people to fill those leadership roles and an opportunity for other players to play for that No 12 jumper.

“We see it more as an opportunity. In today’s rugby, having your best team on the field is a rare occurrence. We’re pretty used to it. There’s an opportunity there to build a bit more leadership depth.”

Marcus Smith is first choice at 10 with Orlando Bailey and George Ford the other fly-half options in the squad.

This latest blow is set to force Jones into a rethink of his midfield options with Farrell previously set to start the tournament opener against Scotland at Murrayfield at inside centre in just 10 days’ time.

British and Irish Lions flanker Courtney Lawes is pencilled in to replace Farrell as captain, resuming a role he filled with distinction during the autumn. But as he recovers from his own injury issues, that is not yet guaranteed.

Lawes is progressing through the return-to-play protocols for concussion sustained on Northampton duty against Ulster on January 16 but should be ready in time for the trip to Murrayfield.

“Courtney is progressing nicely and we’re still hopeful he’ll be available for Scotland,” Jones said.

Lawes is hoping to fill in as captain in Farrell’s absence

The outlook on May is less positive, however, with the Gloucester wing set to miss the whole Championship because of an ongoing knee issue.

“Jonny’s more likely than not going to have some surgery, but the details on that are a bit sketchy at the moment. He’s more than likely to be out of the Six Nations,” Jones said.

Exeter lock Jonny Hill has had the boot removed for his foot injury and is also a doubt for the Calcutta Cup showdown.

“It’s going to be touch and go for the Scotland game, but we’re cautiously optimistic he’s going to be right,” Jones said.

There was more drama on Tuesday evening when the squad were forced to change hotel after a fire erupted from a manhole on the Brighton seafront.

While there was no risk to the players from the electrical fire that was exacerbated by a gas leak, the incident caused additional disruption just hours after Marler had been forced home to isolate.

“The players were going to have a team communication session, which is all about them talking about their goals and purpose and getting to know each other a little bit better,” Jones said.

“There were billows of smoke coming out of a manhole and all of a sudden it lit up and a huge fire like a bonfire came out of the manhole. We had to evacuate the hotel and at one stage we were going to go to the Cotswolds and buy some sleeping bags!

“The players and the staff stayed separately because of the short circumstance. We got through the night and we’re here. We’re hopefully back in the hotel by midday and the boys will start doing a gym session this morning at Brighton college.

“It’s good disruption because everyone had to adapt. We had to change our programme today. The players had to sleep in maybe uncomfortable beds last night and they’ve got to get on with it today.

“We enjoy those sorts of things. Every time we deal with it a little bit better. We had a similar situation with the typhoon in the 2019 World Cup when we had to move hotels quickly, so the guys have been in that situation before and they lead the way.”

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