England get Farrell boost ahead of Wallabies clash
SQUAD UPDATE: England captain Owen Farrell has been cleared to face Australia at Twickenham next Saturday following a false positive test for the coronavirus, the Rugby Football Union announced Sunday.
Farrell returned a positive result from a PCR Covid test taken on Thursday and went into self-isolation before being ruled out of England’s 69-3 hammering of Tonga in their Autumn Nations Series opener at Twickenham on Saturday.
But he could now win his 100th Test cap against the Wallabies following further medical analysis of his test result, with an RFU statement saying: “The sample was reviewed by the lab and determined as a false positive test on Saturday morning and subsequently accepted by NHS [National Health Service] test and trace today [Sunday].
“His [Farrell’s] subsequent PCRs have also been negative and therefore he has been released from self-isolation.”
Sunday’s announcement ended a concerning 48 hours for the squad, with England wing Jonny May saying: “It was stressful. It’s hard enough preparing for a Test match without all of that.
“I was worried about coming down to breakfast and the game not being on if we had had a few more positives. To perform under those conditions and distractions is credit to the team.”
Farrell had been due to start at flyhalf against Tonga but was ruled out just 90 minutes before kick-off and only on Sunday was he allowed to rejoin the England squad at their Bagshot training base, southwest of London.
Northampton’s George Furbank replaced Farrell at flyhalf against Tonga, with Courtney Lawes taking over as captain for the match with the Pacific islanders.
England coach Eddie Jones had hoped to deploy Farrell at inside centre, with rising star Marcus Smith at flyhalf.
But in addition to Farrell’s illness, Smith was not deemed fit to start against Tonga because of a leg injury, although the Harlequins playmaker came off the bench to score one of England’s 11 tries and land five conversions.
Jones, however, could field a new 10-12 axis of Smith and Farrell when he names his side on Thursday, with England bidding for an eighth successive win over the veteran Australian coach’s native Wallabies.
But that would mean breaking up the centre pairing of Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade, player of the match against Tonga.
The Wallabies will head to Twickenham on the back of a match against Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday.
*Meanwhile, the England quad for next weekend’s Test match against Australia has been named.
Head coach Eddie Jones has called up 34 players, who have met on Sunday at Pennyhill Park to begin preparations for the game.
Forwards: Jamie Blamire, Callum Chick, Tom Curry, Trevor Davison, Nic Dolly, Alex Dombrandt, Charlie Ewels, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler, George Martin, Sam Simmonds, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill.
Backs: Mark Atkinson, Owen Farrell, Tommy Freeman, George Furbank, Max Malins, Joe Marchant, Jonny May, Alex Mitchell, Raffi Quirke, Adam Radwan, Henry Slade, Marcus Smith, Freddie Steward, Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs.
𝐒𝐪𝐮𝐚𝐝 𝐔𝐩𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐞 | Owen Farrell to re-join the England squad.
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— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 7, 2021