Six Nations

Farrell to captain England, Hartley out injured

2019-01-17 11:38
Owen Farrell
Owen Farrell (Gallo Images)

Twickenham - Owen Farrell will captain England against defending champions Ireland in their Six Nations opener in Dublin on February 2, coach Eddie Jones announced on Thursday.

Flyhalf Farrell and Dylan Hartley were officially England squad co-captains during the November internationals, but the hooker has been ruled out of Jones' initial 35-man party for the match at Lansdowne Road a knee injury that has sidelined him since December 31.

England are due to head to Portugal for a warm-weather training camp in the lead-up to the Ireland match and Jones said: "Unfortunately Dylan won't be available for the Ireland game so we won't take him to Portugal, but we are hopeful he will be back later in the Championship."

Farrell now takes sole charge of the side, with Jamie George the starting hooker.

"Owen will be captain by himself," Jones confirmed.

Veteran front row forward Dan Cole has been recalled with No 8 Billy Vunipola and lock Joe Launchbury also in line for a recall, as is veteran fullback Mike Brown, who did not feature in November, when England won three of their four Tests and lost only narrowly to world champions New Zealand.

But there was no place in this squad for scrum-half Danny Care, long the back-up to England first-choice No 9 Ben Youngs.

Wasps' Dan Robson, one of four uncapped players in the squad, has been selected instead by Australian coach Jones.

"It was a tough decision," Jones told reporters at Twickenham.

"Danny has been playing well for his club but we have always wanted to have a look at Robson. 

"We want that fast half-back at the end of the game that can shift the ball quickly, make breaks when the defences are sometimes fatigued. 

"We wanted to have a look at Dan in November, but unfortunately he was injured."

England will aim to improve on last season's lowly finish of fifth in what will be the last Six Nations before this year's World Cup in Japan.

But they have the toughest possible start, with reigning Grand Slam champions Ireland having won 11 of their 12 Tests in 2018 - including a 16-9 victory over the All Blacks in November.

"Ireland are the best side in the world," said Jones.

"They are a good team and deserve all the praise they've been getting. The have a number of exceptional players in their team - a very methodical game plan that maximises the strength of their team."

Former Australia and Japan coach Jones insisted he'd unveiled a squad to play Ireland, "not a Six Nations squad".

He added: "I think we are in a really good position. 

"Obviously it is a World Cup year so that is always at the back of your mind. 

"But clearly our focus is on beating Ireland. It is the first game of the tournament, it is the most prestigious tournament in the northern hemisphere. 

"We want to make sure we put our best foot forward and I think the squad we have got is a very strong squad, and very capable of beating Ireland."

Since taking over after hosts' England's miserable first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup, Jones has emphasised the need to play to their traditional strengths.

Asked what he meant by the "English way", Jones replied: "English rugby is based on a strong tradition of being organised, and that means the set piece and defence in rugby. 

"That's what we are good at and we then develop the ability that when we create opportunities we score points."

And he was adamant England's play in key areas had advanced since last year's Championship.

"The game is about contest at the moment, that's where it is in the cycle at the moment - scrum, lineout, kick-off and breakdown," said Jones. 

"We have made some substantial improvements around the breakdown since the last Six Nations."

England 35-man training squad announced on Thursday for their opening match of the 2019 Six Nations Championship against Ireland in Dublin on February 2:


Chris Ashton (Sale), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Joe Cokanasiga (Bath), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Ollie Devoto (Exeter), Owen Farrell (Saracens, capt), George Ford (Leicester), Jonny May (Leicester), Jack Nowell (Exeter), Dan Robson (Wasps), Henry Slade (Exeter), Ben Te'o (Worcester), Ollie Thorley (Gloucester), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester), Ben Youngs (Leicester)


Jack Clifford (Harlequins), Dan Cole (Leicester), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), Tom Curry (Sale), Ben Earl (Saracens), Ellis Genge (Leicester), Jamie George (Saracens), Nathan Hughes (Wasps), Maro Itoje (Saracens), George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Ben Moon (Exeter), Brad Shields (Wasps), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Jack Singleton (Worcester), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Harry Williams (Exeter), Mark Wilson (Newcastle)

Read more on:    ireland  |  england  |  owen farrell  |  rugby


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