Eddie Jones believes the “iconic” Owen Farrell does not get the credit he deserves as one of rugby’s all-time greats but hinted Courtney Lawes is poised to retain the England captaincy this autumn after extolling the virtues of composed communication with referees.
Jones named a 36-man squad for the autumn internationals on Monday, with Henry Slade an eye-catching omission, but he does not plan to announce his captain until the eve of the series with England’s first match against Argentina scheduled for 6 November at Twickenham.
Lawes was Jones’s captain for the summer tour of Australia in July despite Farrell’s return to fitness but has not appeared for Northampton Saints since late September because of concussion, having also missed the start of the Six Nations this year because of a head injury.
Jones, however, has expressed confidence that Lawes will be ready to face Argentina and detailed the importance of having a leader who knows how to keep officials on his side. Jones was equally adamant that Farrell brings myriad qualities but during his tenure as England captain he was at one point banned from speaking to the officials on the pitch.
“If we don’t have an Owen then we lose a huge percentage of our fight,” Jones said. “He is the most energetic and one of the most committed rugby players I’ve ever seen. We need that. But we also need someone who is also composed and speaks to the referee well. We need both. You know Owen is the third‑highest points scorer in rugby history? He’s one of the all‑time greats of the game.
“Sometimes I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves. He’s resurrecting his club team now – they’re back up playing fantastic rugby. We hope we get that Owen with all that fighting spirit for November. He’s almost like an icon of the game here.
“You have to have good relationships with [the referee]. We need to have one of our leaders establish a good relationship with him. We want the referee to have a good game so then we’re going to have a good game of rugby. We all want a good game of rugby. That’s important and we can’t have players yelling and screaming at the referee. The referees are under so much pressure now. It is your ability to have a good conversation and find out how you can help the referee have a good game.”
Jones used the example of the referee Mathieu Raynal’s controversial decision to penalise Bernard Foley for time-wasting in the dying stages of Australia’s agonising defeat by New Zealand last month. “I think it’s more about social reciprocity. If [Australia] didn’t have four players chirping at him in the whole game then I don’t think Mathieu would have done that. It’s human nature isn’t it?”
Jones also revealed he has been sharing ideas with the Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta, and urged his England side to rediscover their knack of fast starts this autumn. Across the 2018 autumn internationals and 2019 Six Nations, England scored a try inside the opening three minutes of five consecutive Tests. “He came into the camp last autumn and we had a really good chat,” Jones said. “He’s a super bright young coach.”
Asked what he could learn from Arteta and Arsenal, who top the Premier League table, Jones said: “A fast start. How fast they get out of the blocks. Every game they’re at it. They play with energy, they know how they want to play, they put the opposition on the back foot. In rugby – and we’ve been good at it at times and not so good at other times – 75% of Test matches are won by the team who score the first try.”