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Test rookie George Furbank backed to deliver as the England No10

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Test rookie George Furbank has been backed to deliver for England if he runs out at Twickenham this Saturday wearing the unfamiliar No10 jersey. The regular Northampton full-back has worn the No15 jersey in his three previous Test starts under Eddie Jones, but he has done some training at out-half in the lead-up to this weekend’s game versus Tonga. 

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With Marcus Smith unable to train fully until Friday’s captain’s run, Furbank had provided out-half cover at training to skipper Owen Farrell, who was named as the England No10 when Jones announced his team on Thursday with Furbank named on the bench as the utility No23 and Smith as the No22 behind Farrell.

Within 24 hours, however, Farrell was placed in isolation after he tested positive for Covid and while England were hopeful that this finding would ultimately be deemed a false positive following retesting and free the captain to play, the expectation was that Furbank would take over the No10 jersey with Smith likely held in reserve. 

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England have yet to provide an update on the situation since Friday’s post-training media session at around 11am but at that stage, they were placing every faith in Furbank who has played at No10 at Northampton at times when Wales out-half Dan Biggar has been unavailable.  

“He [Furbank] is just a class player all round,” said Courtney Lawes. “He can pretty much play any position so he will be fine. The team run went really well on Friday and that will give everyone confidence, especially people that haven’t played much and may potentially be playing where they didn’t think they would be playing. It will be sweet. I guarantee you. 

“Marcus is a good player, has loads of confidence,” he added. “He has stepped up. He hasn’t been able to train much this week but he trained today [Friday], trained very well. It was great to see him back out there.” Lawes was named on Thursday as one of three new England vice-captains along with Tom Curry and Ellie Genge in support of skipper Farrell. 

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Did Lawes know by the end of Friday’s captain’s run who will be captain versus Tonga if Farrell is ruled out? “Eddie will make those calls. We all have to do our bit anyway and whoever gets appointed captain we will all support and get on with it. We have been told but I can’t tell you.”

Whatever about all the late drama leading into the Autumn Nations Series opener due to the Covid outbreak in the England camp, the seasoned Lawes has enjoyed the revamp conducted by Jones who has spruced up both the staff and playing resources. 

“It feels really exciting for me and it does feel like there is something a bit different about it. Since Eddie has been there we haven’t changed how we do things this drastically and it seems to me it is paying off. 

“We have got a good group that has bought into the fact that if we want to go and win some things in the near and distant future then we have to buy into being a team and wanting to get out there and play for each other. That is where we are heading and this is one stone on the path to getting there. 

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“Definitely, it’s beginning to be a very player-led environment, not necessarily strategically or anything like that, but that is a good thing. The coaches have a big role strategically but socially and the fabric of the team is very much determined by the players and what they want to do and that is really good.”

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