England boss Eddie Jones rolling with the punches after testing Six Nations build-up

Captain Owen Farrell ruled out of tournament and will have surgery on ankle injury

England coach Eddie Jones has lost his captain Owen Farrell for the Six Nations as he undergoes surgery on an ankle injury. Photograph:  Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

England coach Eddie Jones has lost his captain Owen Farrell for the Six Nations as he undergoes surgery on an ankle injury. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

 

England have certainly had the most eventful build-up to the Six Nations, a fire in a manhole adjacent to their Brighton base on Tuesday forced them to move a players’ meeting and dinner to a nearby pub and later switch hotels rather summing up their preparations to date.

They have to find a new captain in place of Owen Farrell, who requires surgery on the “freak” ankle injury he suffered in training for Saracens; Courtney Lawes, a possible replacement, has a head injury; Jonny May will “more than likely” miss the tournament with a knee injury and Joe Marler has been stuck down with Covid for the second time since November.

But Eddie Jones likes the unexpected, and even upheavals. It’s all part of the squad’s development. While Farrell’s loss is “a blow”, Jones sees his absence as an opportunity to “build the leadership density”. He had no fears Marler would be fit for the opening game away to Scotland and cheerily admitted he got Jessica Ellis- Hill’s name wrong when she spoke to the players this week.

As for Scotland, Jones was in classic bring-it-on mode.

“Fancy starting the best tournament in the world – and the Six Nations is by a country mile the best rugby tournament in the world – with the most historic game which is the Calcutta Cup? From a team point of view, it couldn’t be a better start,” said Jones.

“Scotland are well coached by Gregor [Townsend] and he picked a number of players for the Lions,” he said with a hint of mischief. “We saw the result of that in the autumn where they played some very good rugby. We’re looking forward to playing Scotland.

“They’re going to be pretty confident. They’re probably up in Edinburgh now not escaping fires and being able to train well. We’re looking forward to meeting them.”

This will be Jones’s seventh Six Nations – there have been three titles and two fifth-placed finishes – while Townsend will be the first Scottish coach to lead them into a fifth Championship.

The most wins Scotland have accumulated in the Six Nations is three, something they’ve done on three occasions under Townsend, although he doesn’t believe this is a mental barrier for his players.

“Every game is its own 80-minute story and I don’ t think players are thinking coming into the Wales game last year that three games is a barrier,” said Townsend.

“We have to take on and adapt to anything that changes. Ultimately you have to deliver as good a performance as you can in the most challenging tournament that we are involved in over five games. Anything like history records don’t come into the players’ minds.”

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