England captain Owen Farrell to miss entire Six Nations with ankle injury

Andy Farrell backs son to bounce back after Eddie Jones confirms skipper needs surgery

The England captain Owen Farrell will miss the entire Six Nations after Eddie Jones confirmed he requires surgery on the "freak" ankle injury he suffered in training for Saracens. Farrell is set to be sidelined for up to 10 weeks, dealing yet another blow to England's tournament preparations.

Jones has also revealed that Jonny May is likely to miss the whole campaign with a knee injury while the Exeter secondrow Jonny Hill is rated as “touch and go” for England’s opener against Scotland next Saturday. Courtney Lawes continues to progress through the return-to-play protocols from his head injury but news of Farrell’s extended absence comes after Joe Marler tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday before England were forced to evacuate their team hotel in Brighton due to a fire.

Jones insists the squad is relishing all the disruptions but Farrell’s absence from the whole tournament is a huge blow considering he has started every England Six Nations match since Jones’s first championship in 2016. Jones hinted he would deploy Henry Slade to fill the void at inside-centre but he does not intend to name his replacement captain until two days before the Scotland match.

Farrell was due to make his comeback last Sunday from an injury to his left ankle, suffered during the autumn, but sustained a different injury to his right ankle just a few days earlier. Saracens have said that “the recovery period has been estimated at eight to ten weeks until his return to action”.

Jones said: “It’s a massive blow for him personally and for the team it’s a blow, but it’s also an opportunity for other guys to step up into leadership roles, opportunities for other players to play for that No 12 jersey. We see it more as an opportunity. In today’s rugby, having your best team on the field is a rare occurrence so we’re pretty used to it.”

Lawes was expected to be named as Jones’s new captain on Monday but he is unable to train at England’s camp in Brighton due to a head injury. Jones is optimistic Lawes will be fit to face Scotland with Tom Curry, Maro Itoje and Ellis Genge among the other candidates for the captaincy. “Courtney is progressing nicely so we’re still hopeful he’ll be available for Scotland,” added Jones. He’s making good steps every day.”

Marler, meanwhile, went into isolation on Tuesday but will be able to rejoin the squad early next week if can produce negative tests on consecutive days. If he has to isolate for the full 10 days, however, he would only be released at midnight the night before the Scotland fixture. May on the other hand, is likely to need surgery according to Jones, which could force him out of the entire championship. Hill is no longer required to wear a boot due to the foot injury which has kept him out of Exeter’s last two fixtures but faces a race against time to be fit to face Scotland. “It’s going to be touch and go for the Scotland game, we’re cautiously optimistic he’s going to be alright,” said Jones.

The disruption was added to on Tuesday when England were forced to relocate from their hotel in Brighton due to an electrical fire in a manhole on the street nearby. The squad had earlier in the day done a Q&A session with the Olympic gold medallist heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill and Jones is hopeful that the upheaval that England have been subjected to will aid in their quest to become more adaptable.

“There were billows of smoke coming out of a manhole and then all of sudden it lit up, like a huge bonfire coming out of the manhole,” added Jones. “It was outside the hotel so there was no risk to any of the players. A good disruption, everyone had to adapt, we’ve had to change our programme today. We don’t ask for it when it comes our way but we accept it and I really like how the players handle it. They just take it in their stride, get on with it.” - Guardian