England captain Owen Farrell to miss Tonga clash

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George Furbank will start England’s Autumn Nations Series opener against Tonga at fly-half after Owen Farrell was ruled out of the Twickenham clash because of a positive test for coronavirus.

Furbank replaced Farrell in the team to win his fifth cap, with Courtney Lawes leading the team from blindside flanker.

Marcus Smith was also an option to replace England’s captain as chief playmaker but he remained on the bench after a leg injury limited his training this week to one session on Friday.

Completing the reshuffle caused by Farrell’s absence due to the positive PCR test that was taken on Thursday was the promotion of centre Mark Atkinson to the bench.

Head coach Eddie Jones said: “As Owen is unavailable to us, we’ve made these changes to the team to face Tonga today.

“It’s a great chance for the team to see how we adapt to challenges and keep focused on preparing for a big game. We can’t wait to play in front of a full crowd at Twickenham.”

Courtney Lawes leads the England team into Twickenham
Courtney Lawes leads the England team into Twickenham (Adam Davy/PA)

England on Friday morning initially revealed Farrell had tested positive for Covid but only ruled him out of the first of three fixtures at Twickenham this month 90 minutes before kick-off.

Given that confirmed cases must isolate for 10 days, it means Farrell will also sit out Saturday’s clash with Australia.

Lawes leads the team for the first time, 12 years after winning the first of his 87 England caps.

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