Six Nations 2021: Owen Farrell 'still learning' about captaincy, says Eddie Jones

By Chris JonesBBC rugby union correspondent
England captain Owen Farrell
Farrell's England side have lost two of their three Six Nations games so far

England skipper Owen Farrell is "still learning to be a good captain" but will improve with every experience, says head coach Eddie Jones.

Farrell's leadership has been under scrutiny after the Six Nations defeat by Wales last month, England's second of this year's Championship.

And Jones says captaincy is a "hard art" which Farrell is still developing.

"We're happy with the way he is going but like any part of our organisation he can improve," he said.

Jones added to BBC Sport: "He can improve in the way he speaks to the referee, he can improve in the way he leads the team. But we are all open to that sort of scrutiny."

Farrell took over the England captaincy from Dylan Hartley halfway through 2018 and has led the side ever since, including to a World Cup final in 2019 and a Six Nations title last year.

But his relationship with officials and the suitability of having a back leading the side has been the subject of much debate, with former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio among those to call for a forward to take on the role.

"Owen is still learning to be a good captain, there is no doubt about that," Jones admitted.

"And it is a hard art and you have got to keep developing. Every experience he has will make him a better captain.

"I've worked with a number of good captains and they have all had their own way of doing it. John Smit at the Springboks was a real people's person, [former Australia captain] George Gregan on the other hand was very much more like Owen, and he suffered the same criticism when we had a bad performance that he didn't speak well enough to the referee."

However Jones feels the scrutiny on Farrell's captaincy has been heightened because of current circumstances, with no fans at international matches for the last six months.

"It is an easy target for the pundits to go at the captain, particularly now where there is a lack of atmosphere at a ground and the conversations are so much under the microscope," Jones explained.

'There is never an equal flow of talent'

Jones says the England set-up is "feeling a bit of pain" given their poor tournament so far, but says constant contact from his players during the fallow week shows they are in the right state of mind to arrest the side's form, with unbeaten France the visitors to Twickenham on Saturday.

"We are fighting hard and the players' honest reflections on making mistakes is an indication that they are in the right mindset to get this team back to where you want to be," he explained.

But when asked why he has struggled to build depth in certain positions, such as number eight, scrum-half, fly-half and full-back, Jones suggested he is somewhat hamstrung by the make-up of the talent pool in England, with better players coming through in some positions compared to others.

"I think Arsene Wenger had that quote, when someone asked him if he would be the England national coach, and he said no because he didn't control the talent coming through," Jones said.

"And as the national coach I don't control the talent coming through. I've just got to try and pick the best talent and luckily enough I get a lot of advice on that.

"There's never an equal flow of talent coming through. You get periods where you get great nines coming through, great tens coming through, great back-rowers, and then for some reason there is a dearth, and no-one seems to know why.

"We've just got to make do with what we have, try and find the best ones and nurture them, and give them the right sort of development so when they do play for England they go and play 50 caps."

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