Eddie Jones faces selection headache after Owen Farrell adds to growing injury list

Owen Farrell - GETTY IMAGES
Owen Farrell - GETTY IMAGES

Owen Farrell and Luke Cowan-Dickie have joined Courtney Lawes as major injury doubts ahead of England's first Autumn international against Argentina prompting head coach Eddie Jones into a major rethink.

Farrell left the field during the first half of Saracens’ 22-20 victory over Exeter Chiefs, having appeared to be knocked unconscious by an accidental head-clash with the knee of Joe Simmonds.

The 31-year-old had been a captaincy candidate, with Lawes also making his way back from a concussion, and now faces a mandatory 12-day stand-down period due to protocols introduced by World Rugby four months ago.

“He is with the doctors now,” said Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby, when asked about Farrell’s prognosis. “Obviously he went off for an HIA [head injury assessment] and normal procedure is a 12-day stand down. Hopefully that will allow him enough time to play in the first Test.”

The plight of Lawes, however, has shown that a longer absence could be in the offing. Having led England to a 2-1 series win over Australia in July, he has not featured since Northampton Saints were beaten by Leicester Tigers in September. Phil Dowson, the Northampton Saints director of rugby, suggested that Lawes would be seeing a specialist over the coming days.

“He did a full day's training on Tuesday, and he had some symptoms,” said Dowson. “We are just looking after him and he goes back through the protocol whatever that system is to make sure. I saw him on the bike yesterday, and he said he felt fine. He’ll continue to do weights, cycle, and do all those bits. We’ll slowly integrate him back into contact as and when he’s available and ready.”

Courtney Lawes is currently out of action having not played since September - GETTY IMAGES
Courtney Lawes is currently out of action having not played since September - GETTY IMAGES

It is likely to be confirmed on Sunday whether or not Farrell will travel to Jersey for England's pre-autumn training camp. As far as options for captaincy, England do still have back-rower Tom Curry, who captained them at the start of the 2022 Six Nations, available. Back-rower Lewis Ludlam, who limped out of Northampton Saints’ loss to Bath, could also be withdrawn due to a hip pointer issue.

When it comes to covering Cowan-Dickie, there is less depth. A foot injury has already ruled out Jamie George for the entire autumn. George McGuigan and Jack Singleton, the two hookers remaining, have two caps between them. “It’s his knee,” explained Hepher, who took off Cowan-Dickie at half-time. “He couldn’t carry on but we’re not sure of the extent yet. We’ll have to assess.”

It caps a nightmare 24 hours for Jones, who saw Jonny May and Henry Arundell suffer injury scares in Gloucester’s 22-21 win at London Irish on Friday night. May dislocated his elbow, while Arundell left the Gtech Community Stadium on crutches after sustaining a sprain.