Mark McCall launches staunch defence of Owen Farrell after Saracens beat Lyon

Defence: McCall has shrugged off Farrell’s critics  (Getty Images)
Defence: McCall has shrugged off Farrell’s critics (Getty Images)

Mark McCall has mounted a staunch defence of Owen Farrell and tipped the Saracens star to stay on as England captain.

Saracens boss McCall hit out at Farrell’s critics, insisting the “outcry” over the 31-year-old playmaker’s high tackle on Gloucester’s Jack Clement was “a bit over the top”.

Farrell escaped censure in Saracens’ 19-16 win at Gloucester but was handed what amounts to a three-week ban in the week.

The 101-cap star will be free to start the Six Nations when England host Scotland on Saturday, February 4 – and McCall has admitted being left nonplussed by criticism of the stalwart fly-half.

“In my opinion, this is not Owen’s opinion, it was at the very low end of that kind of tackle,” said McCall, after Saracens’ 48-28 Champions Cup victory over Lyon.

“So I think the outcry has been a bit over the top, to be honest I really do think that.

“If that had been another player, I don’t think there would have been the same discussion or the same tone about that particular tackle. Yeah, I won’t say anymore.

“I don’t know why that is. I’ve told you what we think of him, and what I think of him, and we are blessed to have him at our club.

“He’s been magnificent and he’s such a brilliant person, time for everyone, time for all the younger players, and the people who criticise him don’t know him.”

McCall confirmed Farrell will complete World Rugby’s tackle school program which will reduce his ban from four weeks to three.

The RFU has also clarified that Farrell will be released from the England camp for Saracens’ Premiership match against Bristol on January 28.

Farrell will serve the third and therefore final match of his ban for that Bristol game, rendering him available for England’s Six Nations opener against Scotland.

New boss Steve Borthwick will name his first England squad on Monday, with Farrell in line to keep the captaincy – and Saracens rugby director McCall fully in favour of that decision.

Backed: McCall has shrugged off criticism of Owen Farrell (Getty Images)
Backed: McCall has shrugged off criticism of Owen Farrell (Getty Images)

“Everyone knows Owen’s been a brilliant player: I would say the best player in England over the last 10 years,” said McCall.

“He’s been a great leader for club and country but also a great teammate. He’s absolutely loved by everybody at this club for who he is and what he does.

“You won’t be surprised to hear that Owen is one of those players who works on his craft in all aspects of his game and this is something he really wanted to get better at and he works religiously with our defence coach every week.”

Asked if Farrell should remain England captain, McCall added: “You’d be surprised to hear me say ‘of course!’

“I don’t know if he will. I think he should be, but I don’t know.”

Elliot Daly bagged a hat-trick inside eight minutes to floor Lyon, leaving McCall tipping the full-back for an England recall.

“He’s been playing well, not just at full-back, he’s been outstanding there but in November he was at outside centre and he was strong there,” said McCall.

“He had an outstanding game, he’s been outstanding all season.

“I’m sure he’ll be in the squad. I’d be very surprised if he’s not in Steve’s squad on Monday.”