| 11.5°C Belfast

Mark McCall: Owen Farrell is ready to deputise for Dylan Hartley if required


Owen Farrell was taken off early in the second half as Saracens beat Sale

Owen Farrell was taken off early in the second half as Saracens beat Sale

Owen Farrell was taken off early in the second half as Saracens beat Sale

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall has declared Owen Farrell ready to deputise for Dylan Hartley as England captain for the RBS 6 Nations if required.

Farrell is favourite to step in if Hartley is banned for the start of the Championship after being sent off in Northampton's Champions Cup defeat by Leinster on Friday night.

Hartley left Sean O'Brien concussed after striking the Ireland flanker with a swinging arm from behind and faces a hearing in midweek that is likely to result in a lengthy ban for a player who has an appalling disciplinary record.

Eddie Jones was watching from the stands at Franklin's Gardens and was also present at Allianz Park for Saracens' 50-3 demolition of Sale.

"Owen is ready. He's one of those players who leads in every way because he leads from the front," McCall said.

"Some of his defending in the second quarter was out of this world. He leads through his actions, but also through his messages and communication with the team.

"At half-time he was really clear with the team in terms of what needed to be done in the second half to make sure we completed the job. He's ready."

Farrell was superb in the first half, kicking 13 points, but lasted only seconds after the interval due to a thigh problem.

"Owen had a quad that tightened up during the game and obviously we're not going to take any risks with him," McCall said.

"We decided to take him off, much to his disgust, but it seemed like the sensible thing to do."

Jamie George, Hartley's understudy as England hooker, scored a try as he began the process of demonstrating to Jones that he is ready to make his full debut.

"Jamie has been playing well for us for a long time. Everybody knows it will happen sooner rather than later," McCall said.

"Dylan has captained England tremendously well, but Jamie has done well for them every time he's played and has been outstanding for us."

Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond refused to speak to media following his side's six-try rout at Allianz Park.