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Owen Farrell thumb injury deals blow to England’s Six Nations preparations

The Guardian logo The Guardian 19/01/2019 Michael Aylwin
BARNET, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Owen Farrell of Saracens looks on ahead of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Saracens and Worcester Warriors at Allianz Park on December 29, 2018 in Barnet, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images) © Getty Images BARNET, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29: Owen Farrell of Saracens looks on ahead of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Saracens and Worcester Warriors at Allianz Park on December 29, 2018 in Barnet, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

England’s preparations for the Six Nations have been dealt a grievous blow by a thumb injury to Owen Farrell. The England captain was announced on Friday in the Saracens team to play Glasgow the next day, only to be pulled on the morning of the match. He had surgery on a tendon in his thumb on Saturday, an injury picked up in training on, presumably, the Friday.

“It’s a simple procedure,” said Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby. “He should be back in seven to 10 days.”

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England leave for a training camp in Portugal on Wednesday. Farrell is expected to travel as planned, but clearly will take no part in training. McCall insists he will be fit in time for the game in Dublin against Ireland with which England open their campaign.

Eddie Jones will hope so. He is already without one captain, Dylan Hartley, who is expected to miss at least the first two rounds of the championship. Wales in round three is the earliest he might return, albeit without a match in what will have been two months. His absence for the entire tournament is a real possibility.

Which puts all the more pressure on Farrell, already crucial to England’s plans as kicker and linchpin of the midfield. If he were to miss any of the championship - and 10 days takes him up to the week of the opener in Dublin - Jones would have to anoint a new captain.

McCall’s posited timeframe is a plausible one, according to a leading trauma surgeon, for the most minor procedures, but should the injury be even marginally more serious than Saracens are letting on, Farrell would miss the match that could make or break England’s campaign in a Six Nations expected to be tighter than ever. Either way, their preparation for that match has suffered as damaging an individual loss as it possibly could.

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