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Stuart Barnes calls for Owen Farrell to be replaced as England captain

Stuart Barnes Owen Farrell

Stuart Barnes has called on Eddie Jones to replace Owen Farrell as England captain ahead of this year’s Autumn Nations Series.

Farrell first captained England in 2018, and was named as his country’s permanent captain after Dylan Hartley was forced to retire due to injury.

The Saracens man has captained England to a Rugby World Cup final, as well as a Six Nations title in 2020, but Farrell has struggled for form this season, particularly during his country’s disappointing Six Nations campaign.

England head coach Jones has always trusted Farrell during his struggles over the past year or so, but Barnes argued in his column for The Times that now is the time to replace the current England captain and start Marcus Smith at 10.

England rugby

Stuart Barnes calls for Owen Farrell to be dropped as England captain.

“Smith is the English Russell. Like the Scot he is not a maverick. He’s an intelligent player with razor-sharp instincts. He has been trained to see things as they unravel in front of him,” Barnes wrote.

“The antithesis of Farrell, who has appeared the ultimate game-plan player throughout the Jones years. To play anyone but Smith this autumn would be to strip bare any talk of 2023 planning as empty rhetoric.

“Two years out from the World Cup, there is plenty of time for Farrell to reignite his case, back in the improving Premiership. But Smith has less time to grow into a test match 10. All the evidence indicates he has the skill, nerve, wit and kicking boots to pull England from the mess of their own making.

“Of course, there’s also the issue of a new captain. England need one. There is one in waiting and, after a summer break from the laptop, this is the first subject to be tackled.”

Marcus Smith’s rapid rise.

Less than two months ago Smith had never played international rugby or won a trophy at senior level, but the 22-year-old now has two England caps under his belt and a Gallagher Premiership champions medal, as well as having played for the British and Irish Lions in South Africa.

Smith didn’t win a test cap for the Lions against the Springboks on tour, but he did impress against the Stormers in what was admittedly a one-sided encounter.

While the Harlequins fly-half is arguably the most exciting prospect in English rugby at the moment, he does have plenty of competition for the England number 10 jersey.

Aside from incumbent captain Farrell, Smith has George Ford to contend with, who has been consistently excellent for England since he made his international debut in 2014, and was arguably unlucky to miss out on this year’s Lions tour.

Smith need not replace Farrell at 10, as the England captain can start alongside him at inside centre, although that combination has yet to be tested.

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