Jones backs captain Farrell in wake of England’s Calcutta Cup calamity

Eddie Jones has dismissed calls for Owen Farrell to be dropped for his lead role in England’s Calcutta Cup calamity.

Jones reacted angrily to suggestions his team is in a "slump" following a home defeat by Scotland that Sir Clive Woodward branded the “worst performance in the history of English rugby”.

Whilst conceding that no player is safe from the axe ahead of Saturday’s clash with Italy, he said one poor performance was not sufficient for him to give his captain the boot.

“Owen’s been a highly consistent, highly successful player for us," said Jones. "Like a number of players on Saturday he wasn’t at his best. Is that a reason to drop the player? I wouldn’t think so.”

Mike Brown disagrees, England’s most-capped fullback calling for Farrell to be benched and George Ford to start at fly-half.

“Enough is enough,” said Brown, frustrated at the absence of bullets provided by Farrell for his outside backs to fire. “I would give Ford a chance to show how he can lead the backs.”

Jones was quizzed as to whether Farrell, with 93 England and Lions caps and more than 1,000 points to his name, had become untouchable.

“Every player's up for selection, it’s all dependant on form,” replied the Australian. "You look at historical and present form and you make the right decisions for the team.

“Owen’s no different to any other player,” added Jones, using Dylan Hartley, Farrell’s predecessor as skipper, to make his point that nobody is fireproof.

“We had to go through a difficult stage with Dylan when his form was tailing off. We gave him an amount of time to pick up his form but due to injury and a number of other circumstances, it just wasn’t right for the team.

“It’s the same for anyone who’s the captain of the side, they’ve got to keep performing at a high level.

“But having one game where they’re not at the level expected is not a reason to start speculating on whether he’s going to be dropped or not. Owen is an outstanding player.”

Farrell, 29, had a difficult autumn. Sent off and banned for a high tackle in September he returned to lift both the Six Nations and Nations Cup.

Although he scored the ‘golden’ goal in the final of the latter tournament as England belatedly saw off a France third XV in sudden death, he was far from his formidable best.

He then had no chance to play himself back into form as Saracens' expulsion from the Premiership meant not a single game from that day to Scotland’s visit.

Having Lions boss Warren Gatland in the stands and opposite number Finn Russell turning on the style only made that first game back more uncomfortable for the Wiganer.

“We just felt we held back a little bit and we weren't our usual vibrant selves,” Jones said. “But I am not prepared to talk about a slump.”

Peter O'Mahony will miss the next three rounds of the Six Nations as punishment for his red card against Wales.

The Ireland flanker was judged to have committed a “reckless” act deserving of a dismissal at an independent disciplinary hearing.

He accepted that making contact with the head of Exeter prop Tomas Francis in a 13th minute ruck had been dangerous, as well as costly to his team, who lost the game.

O’Mahony, who captained the 2017 Lions in their first Test against New Zealand, will have to sit out Ireland’s games against France, Italy and Scotland.

He will, however, be free to return on the final weekend of the tournament when Andy Farrell’s men host England in Dublin.

A Six Nations spokesperson said: “The committee determined that the entry point was mid-range, which for this offence is six weeks.

“The disciplinary committee concluded, after careful consideration of the player’s record and conduct in the hearing, that the player was entitled to a 50% reduction of sanction in mitigation.”

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