Eddie Jones insists Owen Farrell’s best years could still be ahead of him after the England captain was ruled out of the entire Guinness Six Nations following ankle surgery.
Farrell is facing eight to 10 weeks of rehabilitation having just come back from ligament damage to his other ankle that forced him to miss another two months of the season.
Once he has recovered from concussion, Courtney Lawes is likely to deputise as skipper with Henry Slade favourite to start at inside centre when England launch their Six Nations against Scotland on February 5.
The fear is that Farrell’s uncompromising style of play could be starting to leave its mark on his body, but Jones insists the 30-year-old should look to New Zealand great Dan Carter for inspiration.
“Owen’s one of the most resilient and driven players that I know,” England’s head coach said.
“He’s got to take his medicine now, which is have the operation, rehab and go through all that pain. But he wants to be the best player he can be.
“He wants to captain England again, he wants to play for England again. And so he’ll apply himself really well to his rehab.
“He could come back better than ever and that’s what we’re anticipating. There’s a lot of evidence for over-30 players where they can play their best rugby from 30 to 35.
Squad Update on Owen Farrell. pic.twitter.com/aWrP32zTIn— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) January 26, 2022
“Look at Dan Carter, what a great example. The only World Cup he ended up playing in because of injury was at 35 and he was absolutely superb.
“There’s no reason why Owen can’t be moving into a very important part of his career.
“Sometimes you’ve got to train differently when you get to over 30. That’s the communication he’ll need to have with the S&C coaches at his club and with us. But there’s no reason why he can’t get better.”
England may launch their title quest at Murrayfield, but Jones was keen to take a swipe at their final opponents France at the official Six Nations launch on Wednesday.
Les Bleus are strong favourites as they continue building for their home World Cup in 2023 and have appointed scrum-half magician Antoine Dupont as captain for the championship.
“Dupont’s a very good player and it’s a big call to make him captain because the nines have got a lot on their plate,” Jones said.
“But obviously head coach Fabian Galthie thinks he can handle that and it’s certainly not for me to tell him what to do.
“And as you know, being a Frenchman, you’re sitting at the top of the tree in the Six Nations, you’re red hot favourites. You’re expected to win. If you don’t win the French rugby public’s going to be disappointed.
If you don't win the French rugby public's going to be disappointedEddie Jones
“You’ve shown what great depth you’ve got in French rugby in last year’s development tour to Australia when the results were amazing.
“And then you’ve got the luxury of having 43 players in camp, so your grandmaster of French rugby, Bernard Laporte (French Rugby Federation president) has done a great job in getting the clubs to work with the French Union.
“So you don’t have any excuses. All of that comes with a price and I’m sure Antoine is going to be able to handle it.”