Borthwick had no doubts over picking captain Farrell for Six Nations opener

By Sports Desk January 16, 2023

Steve Borthwick did not think twice about selecting Owen Farrell as captain for England's Six Nations opener against Scotland after uncertainty over his availability.

Farrell was given a four-match ban for a dangerous tackle during Saracens' clash with Gloucester on January 6, reduced to three weeks provided he completes a World Rugby tackling school programme.

The versatile 31-year-old would have missed the clash with Scotland at Twickenham on February 4, had the Rugby Football Union (RFU) not somewhat contentiously made him available for Sarries' match against Bristol a week on Saturday.

Farrell would not usually have been released to play in that game, given players are typically stood down from club duty the week before the tournament starts.

New head coach Borthwick did not hesitate to pick Farrell after being informed he was clear to face Gregor Townsend's side.

"I know there has been a period of uncertainty around Owen's availability," Borthwick said after naming his first squad on Monday.

"I was informed unequivocally by the Rugby Football Union's legal department on Friday that Owen would be available for the first game of the Six Nations.

"Owen accepts his suspension and can’t wait to be back on the field. My point of view is that I'm England head coach and my job is to select the players that are available to me.

"The disciplinary system is run completely as an independent process and I think we'd agree there should be that split – the England head coach and the disciplinary system should be completely separate, and that's the case."

Borthwick was in no doubt Farrell is the man to skipper England in a new era.

The former Leicester Tigers boss said: "I've known Owen since he was 17 or 18-years-old. Now it's normal that when a 17 or 18-year-old enters first-team training at the start of their careers, they are quiet and reserved,

"Owen's different. Owen came on to the training field and everyone was struck with awe by how hard he pushes himself.

"Everybody was also struck by how much he demanded of those around him. That's Owen, it's what he does and why he is captain of England."

Billy Vunipola, Jack Nowell and Jonny May were omitted from the squad, but Dan Cole and Elliot Daly have been recalled.

Uncapped quintet Fin Smith, Ollie Hassell-Collins, George McGuigan, Cadan Murley and Jack Walker also got the nod.

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