England's Farrell fears increase
INJURY UPDATE: England captain Owen Farrell’s prospects of featuring in the Six Nations suffered a fresh setback when club side Saracens said Friday he had sustained a fresh injury in training.
The 30-year-old was named as skipper when England coach Eddie Jones unveiled his training squad for the tournament earlier this week even though he has not played any rugby since suffering an ankle injury against Australia in November.
England’s Six Nations opener is on February 5 against Scotland.
It had been hoped Farrell, a veteran of 100 Tests, would return to action for Saracens in their European Challenge Cup clash at home to London Irish on Sunday – two weeks before the start of the Six Nations.
However, Farrell, who plays at flyhalf or centre, has been sidelined with an undisclosed problem.
Saracens said in a statement that the player had “suffered an injury in training this week ahead of the game against London Irish, ruling him out of the match”.
England’s governing Rugby Football Union said Friday they did not expect Farrell to attend an upcoming Six Nations training camp, when a captaincy update would be issued.
Courtney Lawes would be the favourite to lead the side if Farrell is unfit given the forward stood-in as captain for England’s victories over Tonga and world champions South Africa in November.
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Jones omitted utility back Elliot Daly and back-row Sam Underhill from a 36-man training squad announced Tuesday due mainly to their injury-interrupted seasons, even though the pair have had far more game time than Farrell.
With Marcus Smith having impressed for England at fly-half against the Springboks, the expectation was that Farrell, if fit, would line up at inside centre alongside the Harlequins rising star against Scotland.
Jones, who has maintained George Ford’s international exile despite the Leicester fly-half’s excellent start to the season, defended his decision to recall Farrell as captain by saying Tuesday: “We believe Owen can get into his best form very quickly and we believe he will be right to play against Scotland.”
The veteran Australian coach added: “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.”