Eddie Jones has launched a strenuous defence of England skipper Owen Farrell, adding that accusations claiming his team are potentially in a 2018-like slump are something he won’t consider on the back of a single Guinness Six Nations defeat. England finished fifth in 2018 when last defending a Six Nations title, their three championship losses to Scotland, France and Ireland getting followed by two more defeats on tour in South Africa. 

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However, Jones refused to indulge in any then and now comparisons, while he also unequivocally backing England captain Farrell whose poor display in last weekend’s 11-6 loss to Scotland ignited a firestorm of criticism and sparked multiple calls that he should be dropped for next Saturday’s round two match versus Italy. 

“Every player is up for selection and it is all dependant on form,” said Jones when asked how he goes about selection. “You look at historical form, you look at present form and you try to make the right decisions for the team – and Owen is no different from any other player. 

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Eddie Jones takes the blame for England’s opening round Six Nations loss

“He has been a highly consistent, highly successful player for us. Like a number of players on Saturday, he wasn’t at his best. I know there is a bandwagon, but he is an outstanding player and like any outstanding player they can have a game where they are not at their best. Is that a reason to drop the player? I wouldn’t think so.

“There is no set law or rule for that,” added Jones when asked if an England team captain gets treated any differently than say a less experienced player. “We are always trying to make the right assessment. We had to go through a difficult stage with Dylan (Hartley) when his form was starting to tail off.

 

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“We gave him an amount of time to try to pick up his form but due to injury and a number of other circumstances it just wasn’t right for the team and it’s the same for anyone who is the captain of the side, they have got to keep performing at a high level. But having one game where they are not at the level that is expected is not a reason to start speculating on whether he is going to be dropped or not. 

“You guys [the media] must have a new thesaurus because I always thought slump was having three or four bad games and it now must be one game, is it? I’m just trying to get some definition about your use of slump. I’m not prepared to talk about a slump.”

Jones’ refusal to indulge use of the S-word regarding Farrell extended to an invitation he was given to compare the situation England are currently in and what they experienced in 2018, their poorest Six Nations campaign ever under the Australian.

“I can’t,” he replied. “Because it is not the same situation. It’s completely different… when did I say we were in a slump? 2018? So when did I say it was a slump? How many games were we in? That was possibly after we played three or four bad games. So we have played one bad game. How can I compare this situation with 2018? You are inviting me to make comparisons on two different situations.

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“I am always disappointed when we don’t play well. I want the team to play to its absolute full potential and you never know what the potential is of a team. No team has ever played the perfect game of rugby so very disappointed but the players were equally as disappointed. 

“The one thing about this group of players is they are an honest, hard-working, committed group of players and they were massively disappointed as were the coaching staff, so we share the disappointment.”

Jones has recalled the suspension-free Kyle Sinckler and the injury-free Mako Vunipola to his 28-man squad for their Italian job, releasing Harry Williams, who featured off the bench against Scotland, and the uncapped Tom West back to their club.

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