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Owen Farrell is ready to make his return to the England fold this week with Eddie Jones announcing a squad to begin preparations for this summer’s tour of Australia on Tuesday but it remains to be seen if he will resume the captaincy.
Farrell missed out on the Six Nations to undergo ankle surgery for the second time this season but he has demonstrated his form and fitness on his return to action with Saracens. Had Saracens won their Challenge Cup semi-final against Toulon last Saturday, Farrell would have been busy planning for another major final but Jones is able to pick from all 13 clubs for the camp, which runs from Sunday to next Tuesday, given there are no Premiership sides left in Europe.
During the Six Nations Tom Curry and then Courtney Lawes led the side and, though Farrell’s absence was felt in a campaign that yielded just two victories, there are no guarantees he will return to the role. Lawes was thought to be in danger of missing Northampton’s run-in with a gruesome thumb injury that could have put his place on the tour in jeopardy but he has made a remarkable recovery. Though England suffered defeats by Ireland and France under his watch, the 33-year-old flanker is a popular leader among the squad.
Henry Arundell, the 19-year-old London Irish full-back who scored a spectacular length-of-the-field try in the Challenge Cup earlier this month, is also expected to feature in a squad of around 36 players.
Arundell is also eligible for Wales and Scotland but has represented England at age-group level and Jones recently visited London Irish to cast his eye over the teenager.
Elsewhere, after the Sale scrum-half Raffi Quirke was ruled out of the summer tour with a hamstring injury, Leicester’s Jack van Poortvliet is thought to be under consideration for the Australia trip. Van Poortvliet has been carefully managed by the Tigers this season, making only six league starts and featuring predominantly from the bench, but has impressed the coaching staff and, like Arundell, has prospered at U20 level.
The camp marks the start of England’s preparations for the three-Test series against the Wallabies. Whether Jones opts to select players such as Anthony Watson and Jonny May – both of whom are nearing their returns from long-term injuries – is likely to be indicative of his summer plans.
It is unclear whether Ben Youngs will be available to tour but Jones is expected to go full throttle against Australia with the 2023 World Cup in France looming. There may be some fringe players included on Tuesday however, with a view to the Barbarians match on 19 June, for which Premiership finalists will not be available.
It is also thought that the England management has been monitoring Mako Vunipola, who has not played for his country at all this season, having been one of the senior players omitted in September. Vunipola has, however, only just returned to action with Saracens following an ankle injury so the mini-camp may come too soon for the 31-year-old loosehead prop. Curry sustained an ankle injury in Sale’s last outing against Racing 92 in the European Championship Cup quarter-finals but it is not thought to be serious.