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Farrell backed to captain England to Rugby World Cup despite emergence of Smith

“Everyone has a life-span, but Owen is not at the end of his. I can’t see him not playing”

Dylan Hartley expects Owen Farrell to be England’s World Cup captain despite the meteoric rise of rival playmaker Marcus Smith.

The clamour is growing for Smith to start at fly-half in the autumn internationals at Twickenham next month.

The Harlequin has enjoyed a sensational 2021, largely in tandem with clubmate André Esterhuizen, whose wrecking ball qualities at inside-centre have given the 22-year-old space to exploit.

Manu Tuilagi offers those same forceful qualities in the England set-up and a Smith-Tuilagi-Henry Slade midfield has mouthwatering potential.

But Hartley cannot see an England team heading towards the World Cup without Farrell at the helm.

“I’d love to see England give Marcus a go,” said Hartley, whose win percentage as Red Rose captain is bettered only by Martin Johnson.



Hartley: “I’d love to see England give Marcus a go”
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“It would be really bold, a show of confidence and a show to everyone of how they want to take this team forward.

“It’s warranted. Marcus does all the silky, flash stuff that captures the Instagram reels and YouTube highlights, but his basics are really strong as well.

“But that doesn’t mean Owen’s not in the team. I don’t think we should doom and scaremonger around Owen’s position.



Dylan Hartley (right) with Farrell and Eddie Jones in 2018
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Smith leaves Bristol for dead on his stunning return to action for Harlequins
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“He’s played 10 and 12 and has shown he has the ability to play front foot, attacking rugby. For me England look at their best with two distributors.”

Hartley won two-thirds of his 97 caps alongside Farrell, who succeeded him as captain, so is well qualified to judge what his former team mate brings to the side.

“Owen sets an unbelievable example,” he said of a player one cap short of his century for England and the Lions.



Farrell captained England to Autumn Nations Cup triumph a year ago
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“He is your consummate professional in terms of how diligent he is, his training, his preparation. He adds so much on and off the field.

“Everyone has a life-span, but Owen is not at the end of his. I can’t see him not playing. At the moment I don’t see any way he’s not (captain for the World Cup).”

There are no guarantees with Jones, who caused a stir by dropping fly-half George Ford for last month’s mini training camp.



On your Owen: Farrell did not start a Test for Lions in South Africa
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He swears by Farrell, but so did the Lions before this summer. The Saracens ace did not get a start in the South Africa series and was axed from the squad for the final Test.

But Hartley said: “Owen has credit in the bank with Eddie. Just because Marcus is playing so well doesn’t mean Owen is gone. I’d like to see them play together.”

Jones names his autumn squad on Monday ahead of a run of Tests against Tonga, Australia and South Africa which kick off on November 6.



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