England captain Owen Farrell confident he will be fit to face Ireland

Press Association Sport 16:52 23/01/2019
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Owen Farrell

Owen Farrell is confident he will be fit to lead England into their Guinness Six Nations opener against Ireland in Dublin.

Farrell on Saturday underwent surgery to repair a damaged tendon in his thumb, casting doubt over his involvement against Joe Schmidt’s champions at the Aviva Stadium on February 3.

Saracens issued a prognosis of seven to 10 days of recovery but Farrell expects to be fully involved in the squad’s pre-tournament camp in Portugal that begins in earnest on Friday.

“The hand is good. I had something small done to it on the weekend,” Farrell said at the Six Nations launch in south west London.

“I should be training towards the end of this week. It was a gradual thing and is something small.”

When asked if he expected to play against Ireland, Farrell replied: “I’m confident, yes.”

As captain, playmaker-in-chief, goalkicker and talisman, Farrell’s fitness is key to England’s hopes of causing an upset against Ireland.

Dylan Hartley, Farrell’s co-captain, and Chris Robshaw have been sidelined by knee injuries, leaving Eddie Jones without two trusted on-field lieutenants.

If Farrell fails to recover in time, George Ford will start in the number 10 jersey and could also be named skipper with Maro Itoje an alternative for the role.

Despite the injury scare, Jones has opted against calling up any cover for the nine-day camp in the Algarve.

“I’m confident Owen is going to play and we’ve got George there as well so we’re well stocked for 10s,” Jones said.

Wasps forwards Joe Launchbury (neck), Brad Shields (side strain) and Nathan Hughes (ankle) are carrying knocks sustained against Leinster on Sunday but Jones refused to elaborate on their fitness.

“We get together today (Wednesday). If we trained today we’d have 34 out of 36 available because a couple are still sore after the weekend,” Jones said.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt revealed that when passing Jones in the venue for the Six Nations launch the Australian joked: “Get ready for a few grenades”.

When asked to elaborate, Jones responded: “They’re in Portugal, we’re in Portugal. I’m going to the airport now and buying a pair of binoculars.”

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