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'An inspiration': England skipper Farrell fit for Saracens return

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Saracens have confirmed that Owen Farrell is in the mix for them this Saturday in the Gallagher Premiership having fought back to fitness following the January ankle operation that ruled him out from skippering England in the recent Guinness Six Nations. The 30-year-old had an operation on January 26 after suffering the injury at his club’s training ground, but he is now ready to make his return eight-and-a-half weeks later in this weekend’s match against Bristol.

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The surgery was the second ankle operation that Saracens skipper Farrell had in recent months as he also went under the knife to mend his other ankle after hobbling out of the mid-November Autumn Nations Series win over Australia nearly 19 weeks ago. That was his last match of any kind as the fresh January injury scuppered plans for a return versus London Irish in the hope of proving his fitness in time for the Six Nations.

With that planned comeback falling by the wayside and with England since going on to struggle without him in a campaign where they won just two of their five matches, Farrell is now readying himself to play for Saracens in what will be his first club appearance since the October 24 home win over Wasps. Club boss Mark McCall is thrilled to have him back in the mix after so long out.

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“Owen has been training over the last couple of weeks and fingers crossed he will be available on Saturday,” revealed McCall at his midweek media briefing ahead of the game that will take place at the Tottenham Hotspur football stadium where approximately 40,000 tickets have so far been sold.

“He has been in team training sessions for about two weeks we have had a training session just finished there now [Wednesday afternoon] and we will assess him tomorrow and Friday and make sure everything is okay and fingers crossed he will be able to take part in the game.

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“He is the captain of the club and is a great player, everybody knows that, and for him personally, it’s great as well (that he is making a comeback) as he loves playing rugby and hasn’t played much. His last game was in November sometime. If he does play he is certainly looking forward to it. We’re chuffed to have him back.”

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McCall went on to explain the enthusiasm that Farrell has emitted on the comeback trail in recent weeks at Saracens at the time when England were struggling in the Six Nations without him. “The leader I know is sensational, to be honest. I have never come across someone who can lead in the way that he does. He can lead by example, that is obvious. He can lead vocally but he has got the clarity of thought to understand if something is wrong what needs to be fixed.

“He can find solutions to problems better than most. He can articulate that with his teammates better than most and he is an inspiration so as a captain his rare and unique, I think, and as a player, he is a force of nature. The bigger the game the better he is. He is a Test match animal. Nothing brings the best out of him more than a huge game of rugby and certainly, we have missed him over this period.

“The unfortunate thing with this period he has been out, it wasn’t one injury, it was two injuries. He was almost back in January and he was out doing a training session – like he did today – and got injured in that training session, so that was a double blow and hard to deal with it.

“But over the last six weeks, he has made an enormous contribution. It is not like he has been sulking in any way. He has been throwing himself into everything, helping our younger players, helping the team prepare off the field as best as possible so I have been really impressed with the enthusiasm he has shown for that but he likes to play and we are excited to have him back and he is excited to be back I think.”

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Asked how quickly Farrell can get fully get back up to speed, McCall added: “It easy to look back on history, that tells us normally pretty quickly in the past and I referenced a while back he missed four months in the summer one year and came back for an away game against Toulon in the Champions Cup and it was his first game of the season.

“He had hurt his back that pre-season and he was unbelievable that day. He has got the potential to hit the ground running that is for sure but we need to be patient and mindful that his best rugby will not be this Saturday but in the weeks to come.”

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