Eddie Jones confirms Marcus Smith role, but keeps faith in Owen Farrell
"That's where Owen is so good."
Eddie Jones has named a 36-man squad for the opening rounds of the Guinness Six Nations, and asked Owen Farrell to captain his country again.
Jones has included six uncapped players in a squad that does not have experienced players Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, George Ford, Manu Tuilagi, Sam Underhill and Elliot Daly. He clearly has one eye on the 2023 World Cup and is looking to blood new talent in meaningful Test matches.
While Jones could never be accused of being overly loyal, or sentimental, the decision to retain Farrell as captain has raised some questions.
The Saracens star underperformed in the 2021 Six Nations after coming into the tournament off hardly any minutes in the Championship with his club. England finished fifth in the championship and several of the Sarries lads failed to fire.
When it came to the British & Irish Lions Tour, Farrell made the cut - ahead of the likes of Johnny Sexton and George Ford - but he was limited to two Test appearances off the bench, in South Africa.
He has not featured much for Saracens, this season, and played in the November Test against Australia but injured his ankle in that match. He missed out on the South Africa match, during which Marcus Smith played a starring role and made a stake for the No.10 jersey.
After naming his Six Nations squad, today, Jones faced multiple queries on his captain and, after a press briefing, was asked on the BBC, "When does the credit run out?"
Eddie Jones defends Owen Farrell captaincy decision
Having celebrated his 30th birthday last September, Owen Farrell is now regarded as a veteran. Many rugby players will tell you how the retirement and 'life after rugby' questions increase once they pass that calendrical rubicon.
Asked in his squad announcement press briefing why Farrell had been asked to lead England again, Jones said:
"He has the respect of the team, he is a winner and the right man to lead the team. He drives the competitive spirit of the team."
Marcus Smith's form for Harlequins and England - as well as a Lions tour game cameo - have seen many rugby fans, and pundits, press his case to be No.10 for his country.
During an interview with the BBC, Jones was not arguing the point. Smith looks set to continue as starting 10 while Farrell will be just outside him, in the 12 jersey. Asked if Jones had considered selecting Farrell purely as a player and not burdening him with the captaincy, the Australia said:
"At the moment, he's the right guy for the job, mate. You talk about Marcus, he's going to be an important player for us. He could be an absolutely brilliant 10, so he needs to have a 12 next to him that can run the game for him. That's where Owen is so good."
Former England and Lions scrumhalf, Matt Dawson was one of the men - along with Chris Jones - interviewing Jones. He said it would be "foolish" to say Owen Farrell was in form and, quite pointedly, asked, "When does the credit run out?"
"That's a judgement you make," Jones replied, "and that is something we're assessing all the time."
Hardly a glowing, line in the sand, 'he's my guy' endorsement for Farrell, but the England star will back his abilities and temperament when the championship comes around.
Other centres in the England squad include Joe Marchant, Henry Slade, Mark Atkinson and the uncapped Luke Northmore from Harlequins.
Asked if he would like Farrell to get minutes under his belt with Saracens before the Six Nations starts, Jones said he will 'hopefully play this week' against Wasps.
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