Owen Farrell backed to make successful return in England’s Six Nations campaign

Farrell has been retained as captain despite being sidelined since limping off against Australia last autumn.

By Press Association Published: 18 January 2022 - 10.00pm

Owen Farrell has been backed by Eddie Jones to make a successful comeback from ankle surgery in time to lead England into the Guinness Six Nations.

Farrell has been retained as captain despite being sidelined since limping off against Australia last autumn with Saracens’ Challenge Cup clash with London Irish on Sunday earmarked for his comeback.

Testament to Jones’ loyalty to the 30-year-old playmaker is that he will be given every opportunity to prove his fitness for the opener against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 5.

In contrast, Sam Underhill and Elliot Daly have been left out of the 36-man training squad due to their injury-disrupted seasons – yet both have played significantly more than the inactive Farrell.

The expectation is that Marcus Smith will start at fly-half with Farrell positioned at inside centre as George Ford continues his spell in international exile despite his outstanding form at Leicester.

“We believe Owen can get into his best form very quickly and we believe he will be right to play against Scotland,” Jones said.

“We are hopeful he’s going to play this weekend. He has got a good training week with us next week and we will know whether he is right to play. We will just have to wait and see how he goes over the next couple of weeks.

“He’s the best person to captain the team. Very clearly, he’s the best person in my judgement to captain the team.

“If he’s fit and eligible for selection, he will captain the team. If he’s not then we will make an adjustment to that.”

When asked why Farrell was picked when Underhill and Daly were overlooked, Jones replied: “Every player is treated differently – that’s the rationale.

“We just make a judgement on each player. Selection comes down to a judgement.”

Jack Nowell has been in blockbusting form for Exeter
Jack Nowell has been in blockbusting form for Exeter (Steve Haag/PA)

The number of 2019 World Cup finalists culled from England’s squad as Jones continues his team rebuilding now stands at five with Ford, Daly and Underhill joined by the Vunipola brothers in being frozen out.

Manu Tuilagi will be managed carefully as he closes in on a comeback from the hamstring torn against South Africa in the autumn and Jones declined to give any assurances that he would be involved in the Six Nations.

But Jack Nowell could be in line to make his first appearance since Japan 2019 after overcoming a dreadful series of injuries, in the process giving up alcohol and over a stone in weight to enhance longevity.

“Jack definitely looks more like a rugby player and less like a bodybuilder. As you get older, you have to train differently,” Jones said.

“For our experienced players, that’s the challenge they have had. Sometimes habits of young players don’t suit you as you get older and I think Jack has made a really good adjustment. He’s got the bounce back in his step.

“Watching him play on Saturday night for Exeter against Glasgow, he was bouncing out of tackles, he had huge workrate, huge appetite for the ball. That’s the sort of player we remember.

“We have not really seen him since 2018. It has been a long time between drinks! Maybe him not drinking so much will allow the times between drinks not to be so long in the future.”

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