Owen Farrell could miss England’s Six Nations opener against Scotland

Owen Farrell is in danger of missing the start of England’s Six Nations campaign after being cited for a dangerous tackle in Saracens’ victory over Gloucester on Friday.

Farrell must face a disciplinary panel on Tuesday after his shoulder made contact with the head of replacement Jack Clement in the 75th minute of the Gallagher Premiership clash at Kingsholm.

England open their Six Nations against Scotland on February 4 and a ban could see the 31-year-old playmaker ruled out of Steve Borthwick’s first match in charge.

Owen Farrell celebrates scoring the winning drop-goal against Gloucester on Friday night
Owen Farrell celebrates scoring the winning drop-goal against Gloucester on Friday night (Nick Potts/PA)

A communication mix-up between referee Karl Dickson and TMO Claire Hodnett meant the challenge was not reviewed on the field, but citing commissioner James Hall has deemed it to be worthy of a red card, thereby triggering disciplinary proceedings.

The sanction for a mid-range offence is a six-week ban but if it is deemed to be at the higher end of severity, a player can be suspended for 10 weeks.

Farrell’s tackle technique has been a frequent achilles heel and should the citing be upheld, it will be the third time Farrell has been punished for the same offence.

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The three-time Lions tourist was banned for five weeks for a high tackle on Wasps player Charlie Atkinson in 2020, but the sanction was reduced from 10 weeks on account of off-field mitigating factors.

In 2016 he was suspended for two weeks for an illegal challenge on Wasps’ Dan Robson during a Champions Cup semi-final.

Given his track record for dangerous tackles, on this occasional he would be unlikely to receive any mitigation that might reduce the length of any ban.

Borthwick was present at Kingsholm on Friday and England’s head coach will be monitoring developments closely as he considers his half-back options against Scotland.

Steve Borthwick has taken charge of England after Eddie Jones was sacked in December
Steve Borthwick has taken charge of England after Eddie Jones was sacked in December (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Eddie Jones’ preference had been for a creative axis of Marcus Smith at fly-half and Farrell at inside centre, although the duo who each play 10 for their clubs never truly clicked as a partnership.

Farrell has been in excellent form as Saracens’ chief conductor while Smith has been forced to recover from the ankle injury sustained in the climax to the autumn against South Africa.

However, Smith is expected to return for Harlequins’ clash with Racing 92 on Sunday after being given a clean bill of health.

Quins boss Tabai Matson said: “Marcus is scheduled for Europe so he will feature somewhere in the 23. He was touch and go for Sale (on Sunday), so this weekend he’s fully available.

Marcus Smith is close to making his comeback for Harlequins
Marcus Smith is close to making his comeback for Harlequins (Ben Whitley/PA)

“You’re always mindful with injury that you don’t rush someone back because we’re only halfway through, but he’s trained really well the last two weeks and is raring to go.”

George Ford is another option at fly-half having been frozen out by Jones, but he has yet to play this season because of an Achilles injury and his return is pencilled in for Sale’s clash with Bath on January 27, leaving him very little time to play his way into contention against Scotland.

Another complication arising from any ban for Farrell would be the captaincy given he was in charge throughout the autumn.

Courtney Lawes was the incumbent in the previous Six Nations and for the summer tour to Australia but his concussion issues and now a glute injury have since laid waste to his season.

If he is looking to stamp his mark on the team, Borthwick could turn to his former Leicester skipper Ellis Genge to lead the side.