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Saracens' upbeat 'within Eddie's gift' update on Owen Farrell

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

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Saracens boss Mark McCall has confirmed Owen Farrell is poised for an ahead-of-schedule return to action with the London club in advance of the start of the 2022 Six Nations championship with England. There were fears in November that surgery on the ankle injured versus Australia would see the England skipper miss the tournament opener away to Scotland on February 5.

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However, club boss McCall has now reported that Farrell is primed for a return with Saracens on January 23 against London Irish in the European Challenge Cup, 13 days before England are due to play their round one match at Murrayfield versus the Scots.    

That Saracens match against the Irish would give Farrell at least one club outing prior to assembling for England camp, but McCall hasn’t ruled out the prospect of his skipper being released back to the club for their January 30 Gallagher Premiership match at Wasps to further steel Farrell for the rigours of Test match rugby in February and March.  

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Yeah, he is (ahead of schedule),” confirmed McCall about Farrell’s rehabilitation from his November injury. “He has been running on the field this week which has been good. The plan is to try and get him fit for the London Irish game on January 23, which is a little bit dependent on if that game goes ahead. Fingers crossed that it does but the plan is for him to be available for that match.”

Farrell was the recipient of much criticism during last year’s Six Nations after he arrived into the tournament undercooked due to Saracens having a no-game winter due to the late start to their Championship season. His current stint on the sidelines has ignited fears that his form might similarly not be up to scratch for England, but McCall insisted the circumstances were different this time around and he expressed every confidence in his player to prosper.

“I know there was a lot made of it before the last Six Nations but that was a little bit different because he didn’t get to play any club rugby before the autumn internationals and between the autumn internationals and the Six Nations. This is a little bit different. He has been playing this season,” outlined McCall as his Saracens media briefing ahead of this weekend’s game at home to Gloucester.

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“Historically he has been really good at coming back from injury. I remember he was out for several months and then the first six weeks of the season for us with a back injury and we played Toulon away in the first round of the Champions Cup. Alex Lozowski had been playing fly-half for us but Owen went straight into the team and was outstanding that day so he has got an ability to hit the ground running. 

“He is a naturally incredibly fit guy. He has been working over the last three or four weeks with Joe Shaw on skill work and that kind of thing so nothing has changed there really. We’re looking at the London Irish game. 

“Eddie (Jones) has always got the option of letting him play the week after for us against Wasps, that would be within Eddie’s gift to do that and would be very welcome if that is what he decides to do. There is a game if Eddie decided Owen needed more game time after that first game.”  

England are expected to name their Six Nations squad on January 17 and the chosen players would be off-limits to the clubs following the European fixtures on the weekend of January 21-23. “Anyone who is picked for the squad will not be available after the 23rd,” explained McCall. 

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“England have a camp and we play Wasps on January 30 but the players won’t be available for that game. It’s hard to say exactly who is going to be involved (with England) at the moment but I guess we were surprised by the selection for the autumn and we will wait to hear on Monday week.”

Assessing the recall chances of the out-of-favour Vunipola brothers, who recently agreed to contract extensions at Saracens, McCall added: “They have shown good form over the three months they weren’t selected for the autumn. Eddie wanted to get a reaction from them. He definitely got that

“They are both playing well, are both fit and they have committed to staying in England for the next period of time which shows everyone they want to go to the World Cup as well. The rest [England selection] is not up to them in other ways.”

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