London - England
captain Owen Farrell has suffered a thumb injury which could rule the
fly-half out of his side's Six Nations opener away to Ireland in a
Farrell is expected to return in seven to 10 days' time, and so could
be ready for the match against the reigning Grand Slam champions in
Dublin on February 2.
But the Saracens playmaker is unlikely to take a full part in
training during England's upcoming preparation camp in Portugal ahead of
an opening match where coach Eddie Jones has warned his side will "need
to compete brutally in all the contest areas of the game" if they are
to come away from Lansdowne Road with a win.
"Owen has been complaining - but not very much - about his hand
being a bit sore," said Saracens coach Mark McCall, whose side, minus
Farrell, beat Glasgow 38-19 to top Pool Three of the European Champions
Cup on Saturday.
"We decided yesterday (Friday) to send him for a scan to make sure we
know what he's got. We thought he was going to play today and it was
after the scan that he was pulled out."
Former Ireland centre McCall was adamant that Farrell had not
suffered a severe injury, adding: "It turned out to be a very minor
problem with a tendon in his thumb. The procedure has already been done
"As far as I know he'll be back in seven days, something like that,
so he should be able to play a full part in the Six Nations," he said
after English champions Saracens reached the quarter-finals of European
club rugby union's premier competition with a perfect played six, won
Were Farrell ruled out of the Ireland match, his place as England
starting flyhalf would likely go to back-up George Ford, with Henry
Slade then providing bench cover.
Another alternative option could be to recall Danny Cipriani,
although this would be something of a surprise move given the Gloucester
No 10 was left out of Jones' 35-man training squad announced on
England have reverted to one squad skipper in Farrell after Dylan
Hartley, their co-captain during the November internationals, was ruled
out of the Ireland match with a knee injury.
Should Farrell be sidelined too, Ford could take over leadership as
well as flyhalf duties given he captained England in a win against 2019
World Cup hosts Japan at Twickenham in November.