Did Eddie Jones just reveal a major secret about his Six Nations plans?
Eddie Jones revealed today that his England captain Owen Farrell is out for the entirety of the Six Nations after requiring surgery on his other ankle to the one he injured in November.
Jones said on Wednesday: “[Farrell’s] going to need an operation on that other ankle so he’ll be out of the Six Nations which is enormously disappointing for him and the team but it creates an opportunity for us to strengthen the depth of our leadership and for other players to compete for that No12 jersey that he’s worn so well over the last five or six years. So disappointing for Owen but a great opportunity for the team.”
— ITV Rugby (@ITVRugby) January 26, 2022
Going into the Championship, the question on many England fans’ lips was where does Farrell fit in given the fact that he has been out since the autumn. It seemed unimaginable that he would start ahead of Marcus Smith at fly-half so the question was whether he would start at inside centre or on the bench. Jones has frequently pointed out how crucial Farrell will be for Smith’s development, but no one was entirely sure in what capacity.
This interview more or less reveals that the plan was to play Farrell at No12 alongside Smith, as they did against Australia in the autumn. That could well be Jones’ plan for the pair for the next 18 months ahead of the World Cup, with Smith holding onto the No10 shirt.
Many people may have already known that, but Jones’ comments also provide a hint as to what his plans are with George Ford, who has come in to replace Farrell. As Smith looks to be England’s incumbent No10, the best Ford can hope for really is a place on the bench, as he is not a recognised centre and neither is Smith. Who fills that No12 shirt is still a mystery though.