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The one thing Saracens reckon Owen Farrell will feel 'great' about

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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It has been a devastating few days for England skipper Owen Farrell as his need for an ankle operation on Wednesday morning ruled him out of the entire 2022 Guinness Six Nations championship, but his Saracens boss Mark McCall has identified the one positive that Farrell can now take from having to go under the knife. 

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It was last Friday when Saracens confirmed that Farrell had suffered a fresh injury just as he neared the completion of his comeback from the ankle injury that had left him limping out of last November’s England win over Australia. 

That knock required an operation but having been chosen early last week as the England captain for the upcoming Six Nations, the expectation was for Farrell to go on and complete his recovery by playing for Saracens in last Sunday’s European Challenge Cup tie versus London Irish. 

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However, what was described as a “freak” injury to his other ankle left Farrell consulting medics about what to do to solve his latest issue and that decision emerged on Wednesday when England boss Eddie Jones confirmed that his skipper would miss the entire championship as it would take him between eight to ten weeks to bounce back from his latest operation.   

It was this confirmation of a definite rehabilitation timeframe that club boss McCall described as “great” for Farrell as this type of certainty about when you can return to playing is apparently what all injured players crave. 

“Everyone is massively disappointed for Owen. He has surgery this morning so recovery starts from now,” said McCall, who wouldn’t go into how the Six Nations campaign-ruining injury actually happened to Farrell. “I don’t think those details are terribly important, to be honest. The big thing is Owen himself was hugely disappointed to miss the Six Nations but the one thing that players crave is a bit of certainty and the certainty that the operation gives him and the surgery gives him is great in lots of ways and we hope to have him back in around eight to ten weeks.

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“Whether he was going to have the surgery or not was the question on Monday and when you don’t get the surgery you are not 100 per cent sure how long it is going to be but this gives him clarity that the Six Nations is unachievable. It is not as serious an injury as the first one. In actual fact, it is a more simple surgery and we are very confident he will be back and raring to go in mid-March and available hopefully for the rest of the season. 

“No one likes to miss big tournaments and to miss a whole Six Nations is really unfortunate for Owen. He missed the 2015 Six Nations, so it has happened to him in the past, but he isn’t a player who has had all that many injuries and to get two back-to-back in this manner was unfortunate. This is not a really serious injury and he should be back relatively soon. 

“I had a good chat with him yesterday [Tuesday] and he has got his head around it,” continued McCall, who reckoned there was no reason why the 30-year-old should alter his aggressive style of play as he gets older. “Owen has been injury-free for most of his career… he looks after his body and there is no reason why that should change.”

England boss Jones last week outlined four reasons why he had chosen Farrell as his captain. “He has the respect of the team, he is a winner, he drives the competitive spirit of the team and he is the right man to lead the team.” McCall, though, opted not to describe what England will now miss with Farrell unavailable to them for the championship. 

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“It’s a very hard question for me to answer. I apologise. I don’t want to get some big headline about how I think England are going to be without him so I’d prefer not really speculate on that because it would be speculating.”

On a happier note, McCall expressed delight that Elliot Daly and Nick Isiekwe were called up by England on Monday, adding that he was surprised to learn Italy were chasing Alex Lozowski as he was part of the England standby group for this Six Nations.  

“Elliot Daly has played well in all of our games but played full-back at the weekend and was outstanding. He is one of these real flexible backs that Eddie likes. There are a few positions there are injuries in, not just in the centres but on the wing with Jonny May and Anthony Watson injured. Elliot’s experience means he will be in the mix somewhere. Whether that is on the wing or 13 remains to be seen.  

“Nick Isiwke, especially over the last two months, has been on top of his game and we are not surprised at all he has been called in,” added McCall before switching to the Italian speculation over Lozowski who hasn’t been capped by England since November 2018 and could potentially switch to Italy as he has served the new three-year stand-down period.  

“I know he is one of the players on a shadow squad for England. He was contacted and is on a standby list so when you are close to the England set-up it would be a big decision to commit to Italy at this point. He has had a brilliant season. Everyone knows that. Whether he has played ten, which he has done from time to time with us, or his favourite position at 13, he has been awesome all year.”

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