Why Owen Farrell's Saracens comeback will hinge on 'late decision'
England boss Eddie Jones is banking on his skipper Owen Farrell playing his first match in ten weeks this Sunday versus London Irish ahead of next Monday’s Six Nations squad assembly in Brighton, but Saracens have suggested they can’t make any guarantees just now that the 30-year-old will be in their Challenge Cup team.
Farrell limped out of action with England in their November 13 Autumn Nations Series win over Australia at Twickenham and the resulting ankle operation left him in a race against time for full fitness ahead of the February 5 start to the 2022 Six Nations away to Scotland.
Unlike the other 35 players named in the 36-strong England squad meeting up after this weekend’s round four European action, Farrell had no recent form when it came to this week’s Test squad selection but his credit in the bank was enough to convince Jones to not only include him but to also name him as captain for the championship.
“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,” explained Jones on Tuesday when asked why he had given Farrell a vote of confidence even though he has been inactive over the winter with Saracens.
“He is due to play this week, has another training week and then he will be eligible for selection, but we have to see where he is up to.”
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Saracens boss Mark McCall was delighted that Jones had given Farrell some leeway in the national squad selection process but, as yet, there is no guarantee that the England captain will be involved this weekend and have at least have one club match appearance under his belt before linking up with his Test colleagues.
“He has been involved with the team for a couple of weeks now and has been in some team training this week, so we will see towards the end of the week whether he is able to take part in the match on Sunday,” explained McCall on Wednesday afternoon.
“We will see how he recovers from that team training. We have a few more training sessions to go before the game on Sunday, and we will make a late decision on whether that is possible. There is going to be a late decision. This is the first week Owen is going to be team training and we have just got to see how he reacts to the training he had yesterday [Tuesday] and has tomorrow [Thursday] before we make a decision.”
Whether he plays or not this weekend, McCall was glad Farrell was still in favour with England. “I am biased, I guess. I get the pleasure of working with Owen on a daily basis and see the influence he has on our group, on our team. Like Eddie said yesterday he is a born competitor, a born winner but a great inspiration in the group here. He makes such a massive difference when he is around and I am not surprised at all.”
A few weeks ago when discussing Farrell’s likely return-to-play date, McCall suggested it was possible that Jones might release the England skipper back to Saracens for their January 30 Premiership game versus Wasps, six days before the Six Nations opener in Edinburgh.
It’s an idea that hasn’t been acted on yet, though. ”We haven’t had a conversation about that,” said McCall. Farrell came into last year’s Six Nations without having played a single club match over the winter for Saracens and he wasn’t at his best in the round one defeat at home to Scotland.
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