Owen Farrell's fury after England captaincy snub

·11 min read
Owen Farrell's fury after England captaincy snub - GETTY IMAGES
Owen Farrell's fury after England captaincy snub - GETTY IMAGES
  • Courtney Lawes leads England against Australia in first Test in Perth

  • Owen Farrell starts at inside centre alongside Marcus Smith

  • Danny Care returns; Billy Vunipola at No 8; Joe Cokanasiga on the wing

  • Uncapped trio of Jack van Poortvliet, Guy Porter and Henry Arundell on bench

England head coach Eddie Jones revealed that Owen Farrell was “very unhappy” at being stripped of the captaincy, but did not rule out the possibility of him taking back the role.

Northampton flanker Courtney Lawes, who stood in for Farrell during his absences in the autumn and Six Nations, will continue to lead England during the three-Test series in Australia that starts on Saturday in Perth. Jones hinted that there may be some tension between Lawes and Farrell, who is starting his first match since the 32-15 defeat of Australia last November after back to back ankle injuries. “It is a difficult situation but they are both good players, good team-mates and they’re working it out,” Jones said.

Veterans Danny Care and Billy Vunipola also return to the starting XV having previously fallen out of favour with Jones. On the bench, there are an uncapped trio of backs in the shape of Jack van Poortvliet, Guy Porter and Henry Arundell who earned his place as an replacement apprentice off the back of scoring a wonder try in training.

Jones’ boldest selection was in making Lawes his skipper over Farrell who has been his captain since 2018. Jones described Farrell’s reaction as “very unhappy” but suggested that the captaincy may have been a burden on the Saracens playmaker. Yet Jones also opened the door to Farrell assuming his previous responsibilities before the 2023 World Cup.

“I didn’t expect him to be happy, 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,” Jones said. “The thing is he has got less responsibility, therefore he can focus more on his play which I think for Owen and team is important.

“The decision has been made because we want Owen to be at his best and we feel, given the time he has been out, we want him to focus on being the best player he can be. We feel there is enough on his plate being inside centre, he has got a young 10 next to him and that is the right role for him on this tour.

“He’s a winner, Owen. He’s played 94 Tests and won every trophy apart from the World Cup and has a silver medal which is more than most people have got. He’s been part of successful, winning teams and will come back to our team and add considerably. We want him to focus on his game, develop his game, and once he’s got his game strong then we’ll look at the captaincy again.”

Along with Farrell, Jones is boosted by the return of the Vunipola brothers, Care and the Exeter trio of Jonny Hill, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell. “We’ve got seven very good international players back which we haven’t had over the last period of time, Jones said.

Nevertheless Jones accepts he remains under considerable pressure after only losing four of his last six matches as England head coach. “I think every international coach is under pressure,” Jones said. “I’m under pressure because we have not had good enough results. Our expectations are high. The media’s expectations are high. Everyone’s expectations are high. That’s ok.

“We just have to look across the ditch (to New Zealand). There’s a body of water to a team that used to win at 90 per cent and now they are down to 80 per cent and the coach (Ian Foster) is under pressure as well.

“You look at the Australian situation. The chairman comes out and says I'm promising you results, so when the chairman comes out and says I'm promising results where does the pressure go? It goes on to the coach. So every international coach is under pressure. Dave (Rennie) is under pressure, across the ditch they're under pressure, I'm under pressure, but that's part of the job that we like and we enjoy it. We accept the responsibilities of that pressure.”

If Jones was prepared to jettison Farrell as captain, he was also ready to recall two players in No 8 Billy Vunipola and 35-year-old Care whom he had previously axed from his squads. “Billy has had good consistent form for his club,” Jones said. We've been watching his progress and he deserves his opportunity. We've been watching Danny closely. 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.

“His form has been good for his club and then we brought him in for the Baa Baas week and ever since he's come into camp he's impressed. The speed of the ruck ball suits his running game, so we feel like it's a great opportunity, particularly at the Optus Stadium where the ground is hard and fast and will suit his style of play.”

Australia v England, first Test squad announcement, as it happened:

09:04 AM

Read below for reaction from the announcement

And see you on Saturday - 10.55am BST kick-off!

08:50 AM

Eddie Jones on Owen Farrell

"[Owen was] very unhappy [to lose the captaincy]."

Eddie follows that up with a 10-second stare at the journalist who asked the question.

"Owen's a bloke who expresses his feelings clearly and he wants to be captain. When I told him he wasn't going to be captain, he wasn't very happy. But that's OK."

08:44 AM

Eddie Jones speaks live

[On Australia and Dave Rennie] When the chairman comes out and says 'I'm promising you results', that puts the pressure on.

But every coach is under pressure. I'm under pressure, Dave's under pressure and across the ditch they're under pressure. We know that and that's why we do it.

08:41 AM

When was the last time...

... that England went into a Test match with all backs replacements uncapped?

Answers on a postcard!

08:36 AM

Eddie Jones speaks live

[On Courtney as captain] He's got a good sense of togetherness, he's calm and he's engaged with the players and he's the right fit for this tour.

08:27 AM

Our Senior Rugby Writer has his say

08:24 AM

A reminder of how the Wallabies line up

Australia starting XV: T Banks; A Kellaway, L Ikitau, S Kerevi, M Koroibete; Q Cooper, N White; A Bell, D Porecki, A Alaalatoa, D Swain, C Neville, R Leota, M Hooper (c), R Valetini.

Replacements: F Fainga’a, S Sio, J Slipper, M Philip, J Gordon, N Lolesio, J Petaia.

08:18 AM

Thoughts?

Let us know in the comments!

08:15 AM

Breaking!

Courtney Lawes will captain England against Australia on Saturday - but Owen Farrell does start!

Farrell is at inside centre outside Marcus Smith at fly-half. Elsewhere, Danny Care returns to the No 9 jersey alongside Billy Vunipola while Joe Cokanasiga starts on the wing.

The uncapped trio of scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet, centre Guy Porter and wing Henry Arundell are all on the bench.

Fun - for the first time in a while - isn't it?

England starting XV: F Steward (Leicester, 10 caps); J Nowell (Exeter, 39 caps), J Marchant (Harlequins, 12 caps), O Farrell,(Saracens, 94 caps), J Cokanasiga (Bath, 11 caps); M Smith (Harlequins, 10 caps), D Care (Harlequins, 84 caps); E Genge (Leicester, 36 caps), J George (Saracens, 66 caps), W Stuart (Bath, 20 caps), M Itoje (Saracens, 56 caps), J Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 12 caps), C Lawes (C) (Northampton, 93 caps), T Curry (Sale, 40 caps), B Vunipola (Saracens, 61 caps),

Replacements: L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter, 34 caps), M Vunipola (Saracens, 67 caps), J Heyes (Leicester, 2 caps), O Chessum (Leicester, 2 caps), L Ludlam (Northampton, 11 caps), J van Poortvliet (Leicester, uncapped), G Porter (Leicester, uncapped), H Arundell (London Irish, uncapped).

07:56 AM

England training pictures from Perth

The squad practice a scrum during an England rugby squad training session at the Hale School on June 28, 2022 in Perth, Australia - GETTY IMAGES
The squad practice a scrum during an England rugby squad training session at the Hale School on June 28, 2022 in Perth, Australia - GETTY IMAGES
Marcus Smith kicks the ball during an England rugby squad training session at the Hale School on June 28, 2022 in Perth, Australia - GETTY IMAGES
Marcus Smith kicks the ball during an England rugby squad training session at the Hale School on June 28, 2022 in Perth, Australia - GETTY IMAGES
Owen Farrell kicks the ball during an England rugby squad training session at the Hale School on June 28, 2022 in Perth, Australia - GETTY IMAGES
Owen Farrell kicks the ball during an England rugby squad training session at the Hale School on June 28, 2022 in Perth, Australia - GETTY IMAGES
 Jamie George (L) and Jack Nowell play lawn bowls at the Perth and Tattersalls bowling club following the England team training session in Perth, Australia, 28 June 2022 - SHUTTERSTOCK
Jamie George (L) and Jack Nowell play lawn bowls at the Perth and Tattersalls bowling club following the England team training session in Perth, Australia, 28 June 2022 - SHUTTERSTOCK

07:52 AM

And here's the RFU statement

Charlie Ewels suffered a knee injury in training on Wednesday 29 June which has ruled him out of England’s tour of Australia.

He will return home for further assessment.

Sam Jeffries has been called up to the squad and will travel to Perth ahead of England’s first Test against Australia on Saturday 2 July (11am BST KO).

Jeffries in action for his club, Bristol - GETTY IMAGES
Jeffries in action for his club, Bristol - GETTY IMAGES

07:45 AM

Breaking news from Down Under!

Daniel Schofield reports from Perth that Bath lock Charlie Ewels has been ruled out of the tour, with Bristol's Sam Jeffries called up in his place.

07:24 AM

A reminder of England's touring squad

06:53 AM

Good morning!

Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport's live coverage of this morning's England team announcement, as Eddie Jones names his side to face Australia in the first Test in Perth on Saturday.

Jones' counterpart with the Wallabies, Dave Rennie, has called upon a mixture of muscle and experience to take on England after handing 29-year-old hooker Dave Porecki and 33-year-old Cadeyrn Neville their debuts (as Daniel Schofield writes from Down Under).

Rennie has included 12 players from the Brumbies franchise that used the set piece so effectively in Super Rugby this year, which appears to provide a template for how the Wallabies plan to take on England.

Prop Taniela Tupou is ruled out but Rennie hopes he will return for the remainder of the three-Test series while playmaker James O’Connor is dropped from the squad. The Japan-based trio of Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete all start in a dangerous back division.

Yet it is clear that Rennie views the decisive battle as being up front, hence the selection of such a Brumbies heavy contingent in his pack, and says dominance in the set piece is the key to downing England.

“We still want to play, but there’s no doubt that’ll be a big focus for them – they’ve got a very big pack,” Rennie said. “They have a fair bit of experience, assuming they name who we expect them to name. The line-out, maul, scrum are big aspects of their game. They’ll want to scrum for penalties, to get territory and put us in the corner, or kick for the posts. It’s an area that we feel that if we can overshadow them it’s an opportunity to get our game going and put a bit of heat on in the right areas of the field."

At 33 years and 235 days old, Neville will become the third oldest Wallabies debutant since the Second World War. At a shade over 19 stone, he has been a key cog in the Brumbies maul and finally makes his debut nearly ten years after being first selected in an Australia squad, alongside Michael Hooper who will be leading his country for the 66th time.

Porecki has also taken the road less travelled to international rugby having signed as injury cover for Saracens seven years ago, he subsequently moved to London Irish for four seasons before moving back to the Waratahs.

Rennie says he had no qualms about giving either player their bow despite their age. “They have taken a long route to get to a Wallaby jersey, they have got a genuine hunger and a thirst,” Rennie said.

Australia starting XV: T Banks; A Kellaway, L Ikitau, S Kerevi, M Koroibete; Q Cooper, N White; A Bell, D Porecki, A Alaalatoa, D Swain, C Neville, R Leota, M Hooper (c), R Valetini.
Replacements: F Fainga’a, S Sio, J Slipper, M Philip, J Gordon, N Lolesio, J Petaia.