England coach Eddie Jones admits star centre Owen Farrell was angry at being passed over for captain for the three-Test series against Australia starting on Saturday in Perth.
Jones revealed his 23 for the opening match on Thursday with Courtney Lawes taking the captaincy and a place on the bench for Australian-raised Guy Porter to potentially make his Test debut.
“He’s very unhappy,” Jones told reporters at a press conference in Perth when asked for Farrell’s reaction.
“We want Owen to be at his best. He’s been out of the side for a while so it’s an opportunity for him to play three Tests back to back and produce his best.
“Owen’s a bloke that expresses his feelings clearly and he wants to be captain. When I told him he wasn’t going to be captain he wasn’t very happy. But that’s okay.
“He’s had a fair while out of the team and we feel at this stage it’s the best thing for the team and for Owen because he’s a very important player for us.
“He’s played 96 Tests for England, won every trophy in the world apart from the World Cup so he’s a very important player. Given the time he’s had out we want him to concentrate on playing these three Tests and being the best player he can be.”
Farrell, whose last appearance for England was in their 32-15 win over the Wallabies in November 2021, returns after injury at inside centre and Joe Marchant is outside centre.
Australia’s coach Dave Rennie named his 23 earlier on Thursday and Jones said he was interested to see how Quade Cooper fits into the attack considering the Aussies have heavily invested in Brumbies, with 12 from that club in the squad.
“You don’t bring back Quade unless you’re going to play him. Their game is based more around Nic White,” Jones said.
“It’s an interesting little conundrum for them because they’ve got a basically a Brumbies side based around Nic White and you’re bringing in Quade who wants the ball.
“How they get that balance right between 9 and 10 – I’m sure they’ll get it right – but Quade brings a short kicking game, a good long passing game, when he plays flat he can play through the line, he’s a threating player.”
Porter was on the Brumbies books without playing due to Covid and has impressed with Leicester Tigers as they won the Premiership in England this year.
“He’s done exceptionally well for his club,” Jones said. “He’s in the champion club team. He played most of the year at winger and in the last part of the season he played 12, He’s got that versatility of being able to play 12, 13 or winger so he’s a great bench player for us.”
Asked to describe Porter’s strengths, Jones replied: “he’s, tough mate”.
Lawes will start as blind-side flanker while Billy Vunipola makes his first appearance for England since March 2021 at No. 8.
Jones said Lawes was captain for just the next three Tests.
“He’s calm, he’s got a good sense of togetherness. He’s engaging with the players and he’s the right fit for this tour.”
Jones acknowledged he was under pressure to produce a result after failures in the Six Nations over the past two seasons.
“Every international coach is under pressure. I’m under pressure because I haven’t had results that are good enough.
“Our expectations are high, the media’s expectations are high and that’s okay.
“Dave’s under pressure, I’m under pressure but that’s part of the job we like.”
Joe Cokanasiga (left) and Jack Nowell (right) were named on the wings with Freddie Steward at full back.
At scrum half, Danny Care will start for the first time since November 2018 and Marcus Smith is at fly half.
Three players could make their England debuts after being named as finishers – Porter, Jack van Poortvliet and apprentice player Henry Arundell.
They are joined by Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Joe Heyes, Ollie Chessum and Lewis Ludlam.
Arundell became a viral hit recently with a length of the field try and is line to become the first so-called apprentice player to force his way into a Test jersey for England.
“He’s trained well this week. he’s got exceptional pace and if he gets the opportunity against Australia, I’m sure he’ll show that pace.”
15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 10 caps)
14. Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 39 caps)
13. Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 12 caps)
12. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 94 caps)
11. Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, 11 caps)
10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 10 caps)
9. Danny Care (Harlequins, 84 caps)
1. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 36 caps)
2. Jamie George (Saracens, 66 caps)
3. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 20 caps)
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 56 caps)
5. Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 12 caps)
6. Courtney Lawes (C) (Northampton Saints, 93 caps)
7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 40 caps)
8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 61 caps)
16. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 34 caps)
17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 67 caps)
18. Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps)
19. Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps)
20. Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 11 caps)
21. Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
22. Guy Porter (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)
23. Henry Arundell (London Irish, uncapped) *apprentice player