Farrell injury blights England build-up to Ireland opener

England captain Owen Farrell has suffered a thumb injury which could rule the fly-half out of his side's Six Nations opener away to Ireland in a fortnight.
Farrell is expected to return in seven to 10 days' time, and so could be ready for the match against the reigning Grand Slam champions in Dublin on February 2.
But the Saracens playmaker is unlikely to take a full part in training during England's upcoming preparation camp in Portugal ahead of an opening match where coach Eddie Jones has warned his side will "need to compete brutally in all the contest areas of the game" if they are to come away from Lansdowne Road with a win.
"It's a simple procedure and he should be back in seven to 10 days," Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall told BT Sport before the English title-holders' European Champions cup clash with Glasgow.
Were Farrell ruled out, his place as England starting fly-half would likely go to back-up George Ford, with Henry Slade then providing bench cover.
Another alternative option could be to recall Danny Cipriani, although this would be something of a surprise move given the Gloucester No 10 was left out of Jones' 35-man training squad announced on Thursday.
England have reverted to one squad skipper in Farrell after Dylan Hartley, their co-captain during the November internationals, was ruled out of the Ireland match with a knee injury.
Should Farrell be sidelined too, Ford could take over leadership as well as fly-half duties given he captained England in a win against 2019 World Cup hosts Japan at Twickenham in November.

© 2019 AFP
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