Owen Farrell ruled out of entire Six Nations as England captain prepares for ankle surgery

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Ruled out: England captain Owen Farrell will miss the entire Six Nations due to an ankle injury  (Getty Images)
Ruled out: England captain Owen Farrell will miss the entire Six Nations due to an ankle injury (Getty Images)

England’s preparations for the Six Nations suffered another major blow this morning after captain Owen Farrell was ruled out for the entire tournament.

Farrell injured his ankle in training for Saracens last week and was due to undergo surgery today, with doctors expecting him to be out of action for eight to 10 weeks.

The loss of Farrell is the latest disruption to England, who were forced to evacuate their hotel in Brighton last night after a fire in a manhole outside the building.

That came off the back of more issues for head coach Eddie Jones yesterday, with prop Joe Marler testing positive for Covid-19 and Jonny May being ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury.

England have already had to cope with Courtney Lawes, who is likely to captain the side in Farrell’s absence, being unable to train this week as he is undergoing head injury protocols and Jonny Hill struggling with a foot issue.

Jones hopes both will be fit for next week’s Six Nations opener against Scotland at Murrayfield, but the loss of Farrell for the whole tournament is a big loss.

“Owen will be out of the Six Nations,” Jones said at the tournament’s launch this morning. “It is a massive blow for him personally and for the team it is a blow, but it is also an opportunity for other guys to step up into leadership roles. It’s an opportunity for other players to play for that 12 jumper.

“In today’s rugby, having your best team on the field is a rare occurrence, so we are pretty used to it. We have got other experienced backs. We may move Sladey (Henry Slade) in one spot from 13 to 12.”

Jones was optimistic that he could have Hill, Lawes and Marler back for the trip to Scotland, and that would certainly ease his selection issues after a turbulent start to the team’s five-day training camp.

“Courtney is progressing nicely, so we are still hopeful he will be available for Scotland,” he said. “He is doing really well, quite positive. He is making good steps every day. Joe seems to have a habit of catching Covid, I don’t know what it is about him! But we are hopeful he will be training on Monday or Tuesday.

Eddie Jones is confident that Courtney Lawes will be fit to face Scotland at Murrayfield next weekend (PA)
Eddie Jones is confident that Courtney Lawes will be fit to face Scotland at Murrayfield next weekend (PA)

“[Hill] is out of the boot and is progressing really nicely. It is going to be touch and go for the Scotland game, but we are cautiously optimistic he is going to be right and he has got a really positive mindset. Jonny May is more likely than not going to have some surgery on his knee, but the details on that are a little bit sketchy, so he is likely to be out of the Six Nations.”

The fire outside England’s base this week, the Harbour Hotel, rounded off the disruptions Jones has had to deal with. The squad were evacuated late last night, moving to an alternative hotel nearby, but they were hoping to return today.

“There were billows of smoke coming out of a manhole and then all of a sudden it lit up in a huge fire, like a bonfire came out of the manhole,” said Jones. “There was no risk to any of the players, it was outside the hotel.

“At one stage we were going to go to [a shop] and buy some sleeping bags, but we have got a fantastic logistics manager in Charlotte Gibbons, who arranged accommodation at the Hilton.

“It was a good disruption, because everyone had to adapt. We have had to change our programme today.

“The players had to sleep in maybe uncomfortable beds last night and they have got to get on with it today, so we enjoy those sorts of things. We had a similar situation with the typhoon at the 2019 World Cup where we had to move hotels quickly.”

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