Rugby-Furbank starts at flyhalf for England as Farrell ruled out


  • Rugby
  • Saturday, 06 Nov 2021

Rugby Union - Autumn International - England v Tonga - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - November 6, 2021 General view inside the stadium before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

LONDON (Reuters) -George Furbank will start at flyhalf for England against Tonga at Twickenham on Saturday after Owen Farrell was ruled out following a positive COVID-19 test - with flanker Courtney Lawes taking on the captaincy duties.

Furbank has only a handful of club starts at flyhalf but though he usually plays fullback, Jones has often talked about him as a potential international number 10, and his fourth cap came in that position as a replacement against Canada in July.

Marcus Smith, who missed several training sessions during the week because of a leg injury, remains on the bench, while uncapped 31-year-old Gloucester centre Mark Atkinson is drafted in to join him among the replacements.

Farrell tested positive on Friday, after a support staff member returned a positive result on Thursday, and he was forced into isolation, but the Rugby Football Union (RFU) delayed ruling him out, hoping that it would prove a false test.

"Owen Farrell is fine, he is following COVID protocols. We only knew this morning, I can't give you an exact time but this morning we found out and had to change the team," coach Eddie Jones said.

"We feel Marcus Smith is best coming off the bench for this game. He has had an interrupted preparation and George Furbank will do a job for us. George is a very good fullback, he can play at 10 and has a nice feel for the game - he is a physical defender.

"Courtney Lawes is a very respected member of the team. He has good deputies in (Ellis) Genge and (Tom) Curry, so they'll make sure he doesn't fall asleep. He is England captain today.

"It's a great chance for the team to see how we adapt to challenges and keep focused on preparing for a big game, Jones added after naming his revised team 80 minutes before the scheduled 15.15 kick off.

That was put back 10 minutes by the RFU after Tonga arrived late having been caught in traffic.

England will play in front of an 82,000 Twickenham full house for the first time since March 2020.

Team:

Starters: 15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps) 14. Adam Radwan (Newcastle Falcons, 1 cap), 13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 40 caps), 12. Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 43 caps)11. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 66 caps), 10. George Furbank (Northampton Saints, 4 caps), 9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 109 caps), 1. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 30 caps), 2. Jamie George (Saracens, 59 caps), 3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 44 caps), 4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 48 caps), 5. Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 9 caps), 6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 87 caps, 7. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 24 caps), 8. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 33 caps)

Replacements: 16. Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, 2 caps, 17. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 72 caps), 18. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 12 caps), 19. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 23 caps), 20. Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 1 cap), 21. Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, uncapped), 22. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 2 caps), 23. Mark Atkinson (Gloucester Rugby, uncapped)

(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru, editing by Mitch Phillips and Hugh Lawson)

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