England captain Farrell set to play in Six Nations

    Farrell went on to kick a game-winning drop-goal at Gloucester after the incident went unpunished

    England captain Owen Farrell is set to be available for their Six Nations opener with Scotland despite a four-week ban for a dangerous tackle.

    His ban will be reduced to three weeks if he completes the World Rugby coaching intervention programme.

    That would allow him to be picked by new England boss Steve Borthwick to face Scotland on 4 February.

    Farrell was cited after making contact with Gloucester forward Jack Clement’s head with his shoulder on Friday.

    The 31-year-old will definitely miss Saracens’ European games with Lyon and Edinburgh and the Premiership trip to Bristol.

    Provided he completes the necessary intervention programme the final week of his ban will be disregarded.

    It gives some relief to new England head coach Steve Borthwick, with fly-halves Marcus Smith and George Ford both out injured.

    The offence – which Farrell admitted to – was deemed to be at the mid-range of dangerous tackles and attracted a six-week ban as a starting point.

    He was given two weeks’ mitigation for his early admission of the charge and “exemplary” conduct during the hearing.

    “The panel accepts that the player thought he had struck the chest of his opponent but in our view the footage confirms he was wrong,” Farrell’s disciplinary report said.

    “We acknowledge there was no injury to the opposition player and have taken this into account in our decision.

    “We do not however think that this affects our conclusion that a high degree of danger existed.”

    It is the second time in less than two-and-a-half years that Farrell has been banned for a dangerous tackle.

    In September 2020 he was suspended for five weeks after a dangerous tackle on Charlie Atkinson in a game against Wasps – the offence was deemed to be at the high end of severity and had a 10-week ban as its starting point.

    ‘Not as simple as it sounds’ – Analysis

    Sara Orchard, BBC Radio 5 Live & BBC Sport rugby reporter

    A three-game ban sounds simple – sadly it’s not. The grey area surrounding the Farrell ban is the “third game” he will miss if he completes his tackle course.

    Should he be named in Steve Borthwick’s England squad on Monday he wouldn’t normally play the weekend before the start of the Six Nations.

    The only reason England players return to their clubs the weekend before the tournament is if the coaches think they need game time.

    Technically, if Farrell is released to Saracens for the “third game” in the Premiership against Bristol he is banned and he can’t play.

    The judgment clearly states that his ban has to be for “meaningful” games.

    If Farrell is named in the England squad, the Saracens game against Bristol arguably is not meaningful to the player as he would not normally play it.

    Therefore the argument is the third game should be the England v Scotland game, if he is named in the squad.

    All of this ultimately leaves Borthwick with all the pressure on his shoulders when he names his first England squad for the Six Nations on Monday 16 January.

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