Eddie Jones admits Owen Farrell was ‘very unhappy’ to be dropped as England captain against Australia – but insists picking Courtney Lawes is ‘the best thing for the team’ after the Saracens star returned from injury
- Owen Farrell has been relieved of the England captaincy against Australia
- Courtney Lawes is skipper after deputising during the autumn and Six Nations
- It is the first time since 2018 that Farrell has been fit but overlooked as captain
- Eddie Jones believes it is ‘the best thing for the team and for Owen’ right now
Eddie Jones admitted that Owen Farrell was angry about being overlooked for the England captaincy on this tour — after confirming Courtney Lawes will lead the national team against Australia on Saturday.
Saracens skipper Farrell missed the Six Nations after suffering a second successive ankle injury, but having regained fitness and form to be selected for this three-Test series, the playmaker was left distinctly unimpressed to discover he would not regain the armband.
The 30-year-old has been either captain or co-captain whenever he has started for England since the championship in 2018, which made his return to the ranks hard to take.
Owen Farrell has been relieved of the England captaincy for the clash against Australia
‘He was very unhappy,’ said Jones, after the head coach confirmed he had told Farrell before they left for Australia. ‘I expected him to be unhappy and it was just the sort of reaction I wanted because that is the sort of player he is.
‘We want Owen to be at his best and he’s been out of the side, so it’s an opportunity for him to play three Tests back to back and produce his best.
‘He has got less responsibility, so he can focus more on his play. For Owen and the team that’s important. Once he’s got his game strong then we’ll look at the captaincy again.
‘The captaincy takes up a bit of time. It’s not as much as the captain of English cricket, but there are responsibilities. There is enough on his plate being inside centre. He has got a young No 10 next to him and that is the right role for him on this tour.
Courtney Lawes is skipper after deputising during the autumn and the Six Nations campaign
‘He’s a winner, Owen. He’s played 96 Tests and won every trophy apart from the World Cup. He’s been part of successful, winning teams and will come back to our team and add considerably.’
It remains to be seen if Lawes is a here-and-now captaincy option or if he could continue through to next year’s World Cup. The Northampton forward deputised with distinction last autumn but when he returned to the role during the Six Nations, England lost to Ireland and France.
Asked to identify any differences about the side since Lawes stepped in, Jones said pointedly: ‘We haven’t been as successful as we would like.’
That partly explains the recall for Danny Care, who has been picked to start at scrum-half and earn a first Test cap for nearly four years.
Eddie Jones says that Saracens fly-half Farrell, 30, is ‘very unhappy’ about the decision
‘Danny probably lost a bit of an edge around 2018,’ said Jones. ‘His club went through a difficult period when he wasn’t playing well and a good period when he was. He’s come into camp and he looks electric. He looks like a sharper player than he was when he was with us in 2018.’
As forecast by Sportsmail, Billy Vunipola has been restored to the No 8 shirt, ending the Test exile of the giant Saracen who last played for England in the 2021 Six Nations. And the presence of Joe Cokanasiga adds another powerful outlet in attack.
Elsewhere in the starting XV, Jonny Hill has earned a return alongside Maro Itoje in the second row and such is England’s depth of back-row resources that Sam Underhill and Jack Willis haven’t even managed to claim a place in the matchday 23.
The presence of three uncapped backs on the bench hints at a revived sense of adventure. One of those is teen sensation Henry Arundell. The speedster, 19, has already introduced himself as England’s wizard in Oz with a spectacular training try that earned him the fast-track pass to the matchday squad even though he was originally selected as a touring ‘apprentice’.
‘We’ve got young guys who are doing things at training we haven’t seen before,’ said Jones. ‘How long is the field: 100 metres? He scored a 90m try on Wednesday. There were a few, I won’t use the expletives, ‘He’s fast!’ heard.
‘He scored a try not many other players in the world would have scored. It was like Bryan Habana. He could be a very good player but he’s got a long way to go.’
England team-mate Hill admitted he is in awe of the rookie’s ability. ‘It was a crazy try,’ said Hill. ‘I was standing in the other 22! I asked him this morning what he thought he was, percentage-wise of his running speed and he said 85-90. He rounded a couple of lads — Mako Vunipola and Will Stuart, I think!
‘It was very impressive — he’s a proper rock star. I’m sure he’s going to have a big future.’