England captain Owen Farrell has been ruled out of the entire Six Nations with an ankle injury, coach Eddie Jones said on Wednesday.
It had been hoped that Farrell would be fit in time for England’s tournament opener away to Scotland on February 5, having been sidelined since suffering an earlier ankle injury against Australia in November.
But Jones confirmed Farrell, who plays at flyhalf or centre, needs surgery on an injury sustained while training with club side Saracens last week.
“Owen’s had his operation, or was going to, so he’ll be out of the Six Nations,” Jones said at the virtual launch of the tournament.
Saracens said in a separate statement the operation would take place later on Wednesday.
It appeared Jones was planing to play the 30-year-old Farrell at inside centre, alongside flyhalf Marcus Smith, one of English rugby union’s rising stars, at Murrayfield.
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But the veteran Australian coach will now have to look again at his 10-12 pairing in the lead-up to the latest edition of rugby union’s oldest international fixture, with Henry Slade, Mark Atkinson, Joe Marchant and the uncapped Luke Northmore all candidates for the inside centre role.
Owen Farrell absence is a massive blow – Eddie Jones
Jones, reflecting on 100-cap veteran Owen Farrell’s absence from the Six Nations, said: “It’s a massive blow for him personally, and for the team it’s a blow.
“But it’s obviously an opportunity for other guys to step up into leadership roles, for other players to play for that 12 jumper. We see it more as an opportunity.
“In today’s rugby having your best team on the field is a rare occurrence. We’re pretty used to it.
“Last night we had to leave our hotel because of a fire outside, so the boys are adaptable. They know how to get on with it and there’s an opportunity there to build a bit more leadership depth.”
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