England are hopeful Owen Farrell will be cleared to face Australia at Twickenham next weekend despite the captain’s positive Covid-19 test which left his teammates fearing Saturday’s opening autumn international against Tonga would be cancelled just hours before kick-off.
Farrell was forced to sit out England’s 69-3 victory over Tonga after returning a positive PCR test on Friday. Government guidance would appear to dictate that Farrell has to isolate for 10 days, therefore missing the match against the Wallabies, but Eddie Jones revealed Public Health England will ultimately determine his availability amid suggestions the 30-year-old produced a false-positive.
“It is very clear and very simple, we are just following the Covid regulations and protocols and are awaiting further guidance,” said Jones.
“It is not my decision, it is Public Health [England], so we just leave it to them and we are just waiting. We have done everything we are supposed to do. We knew 100% he wasn’t going to be involved [on Saturday] morning, and in terms of when he is going to get out [of isolation], if you could give a ring to Public Health England, that would be most appreciated.”
England opted to undertake PCR tests when a member of Jones’s backroom staff produced a positive lateral flow test result on Thursday. On Friday, after learning of Farrell’s positive test, the rest of the playing squad and staff members were subjected to another round of tests and were left with an anxious wait for the results, which were not known until Saturday morning. Jonny May, who scored two of England’s 11 tries, said: “It was stressful. It is hard enough preparing for a Test match without all [of that]. On Thursday morning we have got a positive in the camp, we are about to train and we have all got to go back to our rooms and all have to PCR and lateral flow and we are not sure if we are going to train.
“[Then] 20 minutes [later] the message comes out we have got to race down and get training, all [take] PCR [tests], everybody is nervous… what if a positive comes back? Are we going to get a game in? Then Owen has got a positive test back, it looks by all accounts to be a false positive and that is a different discussion. I was worried about coming down to breakfast [on Saturday] morning and the game not being on if we had had a few more positives.”
In Farrell’s absence, George Furbank started at fly-half before Marcus Smith came off the bench for a swashbuckling cameo to press his claims to start against Australia, regardless of Farrell’s availability. “To perform under those conditions and distractions is credit to the team,” said May. “It didn’t knock us off our stride [and] it was a distraction that we dealt with well. It was challenging.”