England captain Owen Farrell ruled out of entire Six Nations with ‘freak’ injury

  • Head coach urges his injured skipper to ‘take his medicine’
  • Absence will allow Jones to address leadership problem

Eddie Jones has urged Owen Farrell to “take his medicine” after he was ruled out of the entire Six Nations before backing his absent captain to return a better player and extend his England career. Jones also believes Farrell’s absence will allow him to address England’s longstanding leadership problem, having only last week insisted he was the right man for the captaincy despite his lack of game time.

Farrell underwent surgery on Wednesday on his right ankle – just 10 weeks after a similar procedure on his left ankle – and will be out until mid-March. It is a dreadful blow for the 30-year-old, who suffered the “freak” injury in training for Saracens last week as he was preparing for his comeback match. But now Jones must make do without Farrell, who has started all of England’s Six Nations matches since he took over as head coach, for the whole tournament.

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England evacuated from hotel due to fire and Marler tests positive for Covid

  • Squad ‘calm and well’ after disruption at Brighton hotel
  • Prop could miss Scotland match after catching virus

England’s preparations for the Six Nations were hit with yet more upheaval on Tuesday when Joe Marler tested positive for Covid-19 and Eddie Jones’s squad was later forced to evacuate the team hotel because of a fire.

Marler recorded a second positive test on England duty in the space of two-and-a-half months, raising doubts over his availability for next week’s trip to Scotland. Compounding matters for England, an electrical fire coming from a manhole on Kings Road in Brighton forced Jones’s squad to move hotels.

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The Breakdown | Elusive back-to-back grand slams remain rugby union’s holy grail

The England side of 1992 are one of just two men’s teams in the past 98 years to complete a double grand slam triumph

Whenever the Six Nations looms out of the wintry murk it is important to give a respectful nod to the gladiators of yesteryear. On Sunday, as it happens, one of the unsung heroes of English rugby also celebrated his birthday in deepest Dorset, a suitable milestone for a man who coached his country to a grand slam in 1980, their first championship clean sweep since 1957.

Mike Davis is 80 now and has Parkinson’s disease, but can still sometimes be found practising a few wedge shots on the playing fields adjoining his home in Sherborne. Even in his coaching pomp – he also won 16 caps as an England lock forward – it was never about him, whether he was teaching clumsy kids like us the rudiments of basketball, or tutoring the country’s best rugby players. Only the snug purple tracksuit bearing a red rose offered a clue to his ‘other’ sporting life.

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Injuries to Courtney Lawes and Jonny May hit England’s Six Nations plans

  • Lawes was set to stand in for absent Owen Farrell as captain
  • Eddie Jones calls up George Ford, Elliot Daly and Nick Isiekwe

England’s Six Nations preparations have been rocked by further significant disruption, with Courtney Lawes sidelined due to a head injury and Eddie Jones delaying a decision on who will replace the absent Owen Farrell as captain. In another major blow Jonny May has pulled out of the squad with a knee injury.

Jones was expected to name a new captain on Monday and, while England have confirmed that Farrell will miss their opening match against Scotland at the very least – meaning a recall for George Ford – a replacement skipper will not be named until next week. Lawes was the heavy favourite, having stood in successfully during the autumn, but he is now unable to take part in key preparations at England’s training camp in Brighton this week as he undergoes the head injury return-to-play protocols. It is understood Tom Curry will fulfil media duties at the Six Nations launch this week in his role as one of the side’s vice-captains.

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Jack Nowell should be given another chance to shine for England at No 13 | Ugo Monye

The absence of Manu Tuilagi has presented Eddie Jones with an opportunity to experiment in midfield during Six Nations

As has often been the case in the past, England’s biggest selection conundrum for the Six Nations comes in midfield. The absence of Owen Farrell and Manu Tuilagi gives Eddie Jones the opportunity to try something different. He has the chance to develop his ‘New England’ a step further and perhaps even implement a different style that will remain in place until the World Cup next year.

Eddie won’t address the fact Farrell and Tuilagi are missing with the squad in great detail on Monday when they assemble in Brighton. It can be disheartening to feel like you are just standing in for someone or keeping the jersey warm and I do wonder if, in Tuilagi’s case, that has been a problem in the past. He is such a valuable asset when fit and firing – and so popular with his teammates – that it has felt as if anyone who has worn the No 13 jersey has struggled to make it their own as a result.

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