George North is looking forward to the day his children face the big choice: cycling or rugby.

North is also looking forward to the Six Nations Championship, starting this weekend, when Wales begin their title defence against Ireland in Dublin.

There is an awful lot for this 29-year-old to be looking forward to, now that his injury hell has passed.

For now, North is enjoying the freedom of being able to run again, after suffering an anterior crucial ligament (ACL) injury in his right knee last April, playing for the Ospreys.

It ended his year on the rugby pitch, ruining hopes of a starring role for the British and Irish Lions in South Africa and denying him a shot at the Springboks, Australia and New Zealand in the autumn internationals.

North would sooner have been healthy and active of course, but being sidelined has had its upsides. He and his wife, double Olympic cyclist silver medallist Becky James, welcomed their second son, Tomi, a brother for Jac, in October.

Rather than dividing his time between the family and Wales camps, North has been essentially a stay-at-home dad for months on end.

"It's been brilliant. Normally I'm away playing or touring or something," says North, who is a Land Rover ambassador.

"To have this time at home, it's priceless. But Becky's been a superstar. When I had my surgery to start with, I couldn't do much on crutches with Jac, and obviously Tomi's joined us now and he's class.

"I'm in that stage now where effectively I'm in pre-season again, and I'm absolutely battered when I come home from training. And I'm not much use to anyone, but she's been amazing through this whole process.

"It has been tough, but it's been amazing you know, the two boys are amazing. Thank goodness for Becky, because it'd have been a lot harder at one point, with one leg up and hopping around the place. Especially my surgery, it was very tough. But yeah, she's a superhero."

Wales have been Six Nations champions four times in the last 10 years. Despite being holders, however, few are giving them much of a chance this time around.

After all, Wales have been up and down with results in the tournament. Across the last five years, they have trailed in fifth twice, as well as clinching a couple of championships, including the 2019 grand slam.

This time, they head into the tournament without a clutch of key players: North is absent, but so too is captain Alun Wyn Jones, with Taulupe Faletau, Leigh Halfpenny, Josh Navidi, Ken Owens and Justin Tipuric also sidelined.

 

Head coach Wayne Pivac said his squad has lost around 680 caps' worth of experience, but Wales should still be no mugs.

The players Pivac has chosen for the tournament come with an average of 27.1 Test caps of experience, only topped by Ireland's 30.9 among the six teams.

Those that are missing are proven class, however. In last year's championship, Faletau had 66 carries, putting him in third place among all players, while Tipuric made the most tackles (82). Faletau was fourth on that list (74), and skipper Jones was sixth (72).

On the Six Nations all-time list, North, who has featured on the wing and at outside centre, ranks fourth for metres gained (2,548), third for defenders beaten (126), and third for most clean breaks (48).

Jones is top of the all-time tackles chart (719), with fly-half Dan  Biggar a different animal to the absent lock. Biggar sits second on the Six Nations' all-time try assists list, after setting up 17 five-pointers in the competition.

To lose a raft of proven top-level talent would hurt any team, and North is not blind to that. He has been in and around the Wales squad since his late teens, however, so is certain there will be no defeatist attitude in Pivac's camp.

"Obviously there are a number of players out missing, and I think Wayne's come out with a stat of something like 680 caps that he's lost," says North. "That's a tough place to be."

 

But can Wales kick on regardless? North says so.

"Well, that that's the only way you get better, isn't it? By pushing the standards up every time," North tells Stats Perform News.

"I think for us, as Wales, we're used to being the underdogs, and we're always used to being kind of like always wanting more, and I think that shows in the performances that we have and the results we have had of late.

"From the lads' point of view, that's something they will certainly be looking at: how they push on from last year. Obviously winning the championship [is one thing], but you know the next step is backing it up again and as we said, it's going to be incredibly tough for the boys."

In the 2021 Six Nations, Wales made the most tackles of all teams (871), were third for tackle success with a healthy 88.2 per cent record, ranked second for lineout success with 90.8 per cent, and matched France for the most scrum success with 96.2 per cent.

Pivac's side averaged 3.7 points per entry into the opposition 22, making them the only side to average over three points per entry. It is a hard act to follow.

The loss of veteran skipper Jones gives 32-year-old playmaker Biggar the opportunity to lead the team into the championship.

"Yeah, it's not easy following the most capped player in the world is it!" North says. "I wouldn't like to follow Alun Wyn, put it that way.

"But what you're getting with Dan is a fierce competitor who drives the squad from the front row, right the way back all the way through to the full-back.

"He expects high standards of everyone, and he expects those standards of himself. I'm excited to see Dan as captain because what you see on the field is a fierce competitor. And that's not just on the field, that's Monday to Friday, and that's in whatever jersey he is.

"He expects the best for himself, and also the best from others because you know he is a competitor and wants to win."

North has the most international tries of all current players in the world game, and he has spoken of hoping to be available to Pivac at the back end of the championship.  Wales have home games against France and Italy on March 11 and 19 to finish the campaign.

He longs to make his children proud, even though both are much too young to understand his day job, or to understand their mother was a world champion.

From the routines of parenthood to the cauldron of the Principality Stadium, North is focused on pulling out all the stops. Jac and Tomi are keeping him grounded but also fuelling his ambitions.

"Obviously they don't know what Dad does. They don't know what Mum used to do," he says. "And I think that's something that's special.

"I am looking forward to the day that I'd be able to play and Becky can bring the boys to watch. I'm incredibly proud and honoured to be able to play rugby, but to be able to share that with the boys and, you know, show them more. Whatever they want to do in the future, there's always that conversation, is it a bike or a rugby ball?"

North, who during last year's Six Nations became the youngest player to reach 100 caps for any country, is targeting the 2023 Rugby World Cup as a long-range goal.

That could add up to over two months away from home, and given he will be 31 by the time that tournament comes around, it might be a last shot at global glory.

"I've got a fair few steps to cross off before we get back in any jersey. Certainly it's something I want to be able to put my hand up and be fighting for my selection there," he says.

"I've been very fortunate to go to a few now, and you know that's a big push. It's not too far away, and it's something that is certainly exciting."

There he goes again, always looking forward.


:: George North is a Land Rover ambassador. Visit landrover.co.uk

James Bhatti has withdrawn from Scotland's squad for their opening Six Nations match, while Gregor Townsend will also be without Josh Bayliss.

Scotland face England in their first game of the tournament at Murrayfield on Saturday.

However, Bhatti, a loosehead at Glasgow Warriors, has withdrawn from the squad due to injury.

Bayliss, meanwhile, will remain with his club side Bath for further assessment after he suffered a concussion against Leinster in the Champions Cup on January 22.

Scotland's update also confirmed Duhan van der Merwe and Kyle Rowe had joined up with the squad and that Sean Maitland, who was not selected by Townsend but was with the group, has returned to Saracens. 

After hosting England, Scotland face Wales in Cardiff and then welcome France to Murrayfield before taking on Italy. They round off their campaign against Ireland in Dublin on March 19.

Fabien Galthie provided an encouraging update on Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack after France's key duo tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Six Nations.

Les Bleus' preparation for the tournament has been hard hit by a host of contracting coronavirus.  

Bernard Le Roux had to make 11 changes to his 42-man squad, with World Rugby Player of the Year Dupont, fly-half Ntamack and Bernard Le Roux among those who were unable to report for international duty.

Galthie on Wednesday revealed the absentees due to COVID-19 are recovering well ahead of his side's opening game of the tournament against Italy at Stade de France a week on Sunday.

The France head coach said: "We keep in touch with all the players from afar, of course.

"We have good news concerning the players and their state of health and spirit and all are doing well."

Mercurial scrum-half Dupont has not played since December 11 due to a knee injury and coronavirus.

Galthie says the playmaker could return for Toulouse in their Top 14 encounter with Racing 92 on Saturday.

"I have spoken to him: he is doing well. He resumed training two weeks ago," said Galthie 

"He wanted to play against Cardiff but the match did not go ahead. Then of course he tested positive for COVID. But he is fine, and is still training. Today he had a test at his club and depending on the results he will play or not for Toulouse this weekend.

"That is up to his head coach Ugo Mola and I have confidence in him he will take the right decision both for his team and for Antoine."

It is 12 years since France won the Six Nations, but they are favourites to end that title drought this time around and that is music to Galthie's ears. 

"I am very happy with this compliment, we’re very happy and proud to be labelled as favourites," he said.

"We are very happy to hear all those positive comments. It's very rewarding, it's rewarding for our two-year work, it's rewarding for all the commitment of the players, the virtues of the team and their dedication on the pitch."

Wayne Pivac has not totally ruled out of the prospect of Alun Wyn Jones making another astonishing early return from injury to play for Wales in the Six Nations.

Jones was not included in the defending champions' squad last week as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

Dan Biggar was named captain for the tournament in the absence of the inspirational lock, who did the damage in a 54-16 thrashing against New Zealand in October.

Jones incredibly recovered from a dislocated shoulder to skipper the British and Irish Lions in South Africa last year.

Wales head coach Pivac says Jones is unlikely to play in the Six Nations, but there is a chance the 36-year-old could feature.

"Never say never," Pivac said, adding: "It's Alun Wyn Jones. I probably wouldn't enter the conversation if it was anyone else, but the guy has broken so many records.

"I honestly say that, I would never say never. But look, it'll be a long shot. Let's just say that.

"Al is working incredibly hard behind the scenes, as you know he would, to get himself in the best shape possible for either the Ospreys or Wales."

Stand-in captain Biggar echoed Pivac's sentiments as the holders prepare for their opening match against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 5.

"I wouldn't put my mortgage on it," the fly-half said.

"I don't think any of us expected [Jones] to turn up in South Africa in the summer, and he managed to get on the plane.

"If there is anybody who has got a chance of being fit for some part of this tournament, then Al is probably the man. I wouldn't rule it out just yet."

England captain Owen Farrell will miss the 2022 Six Nations after suffering a new ankle injury, head coach Eddie Jones confirmed.

The 30-year-old required surgery after damaging his right ankle during training with club side Saracens, who confirmed on Wednesday he will be sidelined for eight to 10 weeks.

Farrell has not played since another ankle injury sustained during the November Test victory over Australia at Twickenham.

The news is a significant blow to Jones' plans, with Farrell having been earmarked to play at number 12 and act as a guide for inexperienced fly-half Marcus Smith.

"Owen has had his operation, so he'll be out of the Six Nations," Jones said.

"[It is a] massive blow for him personally, but it's a chance for people to step up. It's an opportunity for other people to fill those leadership roles and an opportunity for other players to play for that number 12 jumper.

"In today's rugby, it's rare that you have all your best players on the field. We're used to it.

"Last night we had to leave the hotel because of a fire outside, so the boys are adaptable. They know how to get along with things and there's an opportunity there to build a little more leadership depth."

George Ford had already been recalled to the squad following injuries to Farrell and Jonny May, who has a knee problem.

England's preparations for the clash in Glasgow were further disrupted by a positive COVID-19 test for Joe Marler, while Courtney Lawes – among the favourites to deputise for Farrell as captain – has been sitting out training because of head injury protocols.

The team were also evacuated from their hotel in Brighton after a suspected electrical fire nearby.

England begin their campaign against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 5 before facing Italy in Rome a week later.

England suffered a blow to preparations for their Six Nations opener against Scotland after Joe Marler tested positive for COVID-19, while a fire near the team hotel also caused disruption.

Eddie Jones is readying his side for the Calcutta Cup tussle at Murrayfield on February 5, as England bid to improve on last season's disappointing Six Nations performance.

The Red Rose finished fifth in the tournament after just two wins, and preparations for this year's edition have been hit by injury, with captain Owen Farrell set to miss the Scotland game.

Courtney Lawes – initially one of the favourites to deputise as captain – is sitting out training this week because of head injury protocols. Nick Isiekwe has joined up with the squad as cover for Lawes, while George Ford has also been added, and it was revealed on Monday that Elliot Daly is in for Jonny May, who is out with a knee injury.

England announced a fresh blow, with a team statement saying: "Joe Marler has tested positive for COVID and has withdrawn from the training camp in Brighton. All of the other England players and staff have undergone daily lateral flow testing – all of which returned negative results."

England are training in Brighton this week; however, a suspected electrical fire close to their seafront hotel on Tuesday caused the team to seek alternative accommodation, with a 30-metre cordon enforced and nearby premises evacuated.

George Ford is back in the England squad ahead of the upcoming Six Nations as Eddie Jones awaits an update on captain Owen Farrell, but Jonny May is out.

Farrell has endured an injury-hit season so far and suffered a setback in training last week, with his club Saracens revealing he was set to see a specialist about the unspecified issue.

While he is all but ruled out of the Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 5, England are yet to confirm if Farrell can return after the Calcutta Cup clash.

Nevertheless, Ford is back in the selection to make up for Farrell's absence against Scotland, with the Leicester Tigers fly-half seemingly set for his 78th cap.

Ford has not played for England since the 32-18 Six Nations defeat to Ireland last March, with Marcus Smith's emergence nudging him down the pecking order, but he has the chance to stake his claim once again.

Also in Monday's squad update, England confirmed May has withdrawn from the squad with a knee injury, while Courtney Lawes – initially one of the favourites to deputise as captain in Farrell's stead – must sit out training this week because of head injury protocols.

Nick Isiekwe has joined up with the squad as cover for Lawes, while Elliot Daly is in for May.

 

George North still believes he could feature for Wales at the back end of the Six Nations as he prepares to return from a gruelling knee injury lay-off.

The star back, who has successfully converted from wing to outside centre with Wales, has the most international tries of all current players in the world game.

However, an anterior crucial ligament (ACL) blow has put his career on hold. Sustaining the injury last April forced North to miss the British and Irish Lions' tour of South Africa, plus the autumn internationals.

He was not included in Wales' 36-player squad for the Six Nations this week, absent along with several other notable injury casualties, including captain Alun Wyn Jones.

Champions Wales start their Six Nations defence against Ireland in Dublin on February 5, a date which has come much too soon for North to be considered. His short-term priority is getting in shape with his club side, the Ospreys.

"Hopefully I'll be back into some sort of team training next week," North told Stats Perform.

Asked whether there was any hope of him being available to Wales during the championship, North said: "There's two big steps: getting back to training full time with the Ospreys, then playing for the Ospreys with a view to potentially, maybe, catching the end of it.

"But at the moment I'm just focusing on playing back for the Ospreys."

Wales have home games against France and Italy on March 11 and 19 to finish the campaign, and North may be pushing for selection by then.

He has been a key component of the Wales team since making his debut as a teenager, and passed 100 caps during the Six Nations last year.

The 29-year-old has been itching to get back into action, but his absence from the pitch has allowed North some valuable family time.

He married Olympic cyclist Becky James in 2019, and they had a second son, Tomi, in October of last year.

North describes his wife as "a superstar" for helping him through a difficult rehabilitation period, and the former Northampton and Scarlets star is relishing his return to action.

"I take great confidence in knowing a load of rugby boys that I know have had single or double ACLs and they're still playing now, with no issues," North said.

"Luckily, I'm in a good generation where the medical care is advancing so quickly, so I'm benefiting from that. For me now, the focus is just to get back.

North, who is a Land Rover ambassador, is evidently relieved to be finally "on the home straight", as he puts it. He compares his current routine to that of a demanding pre-season, with full contact training still to come.

"I'm finding already this is the most frustrating part," he said, "because obviously you're a lot closer than you were six months ago."

He can only encourage his Wales colleagues from a distance as the Six Nations looms, and with the likes of Taulupe Faletau, Leigh Halfpenny, Josh Navidi, Ken Owens and Justin Tipuric also sidelined, it will be a challenging campaign for coach Wayne Pivac. North prefers to look at the positives that might come from this testing time.

"With adversity, you get exciting results," said North, "and the younger boys coming through that we've picked are exciting boys, and I'm excited to see how the boys come together to push on.

"Any Six Nations is tough. Obviously, you want your main team out there the best you can, and injuries are a nightmare for any team."


:: George North is a Land Rover ambassador. Visit landrover.co.uk

England captain Owen Farrell is a doubt for the Six Nations after suffering an injury in training.

The versatile Farrell has not played since November after undergoing ankle surgery he required due to damage done during a 32-15 victory over Australia at Twickenham.

Farrell was due to feature for Saracens in their European Challenge Cup clash with London Irish on Sunday, but the 30-year-old has suffered another setback.

Sarries said in a statement: "Owen was back in full training having recovered from the ankle injury he sustained against Australia during the Autumn internationals. 

"We will have a further update after he sees a specialist early next week."

Farrell's place in the England side has been called into question, but Eddie Jones this week firmly backed his skipper after naming his squad for a Six Nations tournament that the Red Rose start against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 5.

"We believe Owen can get into his best form very quickly and we believe he will be right to play against Scotland," the England head coach said.

“We are hopeful he's going to play this weekend. He has got a good training week with us next week and we will know whether he is right to play. We will just have to wait and see how he goes over the next couple of weeks.

"He's the best person to captain the team. Very clearly, he's the best person in my judgement to captain the team.

"If he's fit and eligible for selection, he will captain the team. If he's not then we will make an adjustment to that."

Courtney Lawes would appear to be the most likely player to take over as captain after leading his country in a win over South Africa in the absence of Farrell.

Uncapped duo Michael Lowry and Mack Hansen have been named in Ireland's Six Nations squad, but James Lowe misses out due to injury.

Versatile back Lowry and wing Hansen were on Wednesday included in Andy Farrell's 37-man squad.

Flyer Lowe has been ruled out of the tournament due to a muscle injury, but fly-half Joey Carbery is included despite suffering a fractured elbow last month.

Cian Prendergast will take part in a pre-Six Nations training camp in Portugal as a development player.

Ireland face defending champions Wales in their first match of the tournament at the Aviva Stadium on February 5.

Head coach Farrell said: "In November we challenged the group to get up to speed quickly so that the team could perform at international level.

"The same will apply for this Six Nations campaign, we need to be at our best against Wales on the opening weekend.

"We have a strong squad with competition for places across the board, there is a nice blend of experienced internationals and guys who have had their first taste of this level in the past 12 months.

"The games in November gave us a good foundation to build on and areas where we know we will have to improve. It will be an exciting Championship with so many strong squads and impressive performances across the board during the autumn."

 

Ireland squad:

Backs: Bundee Aki, Robert Baloucoune, Joey Carbery, Jack Carty, Craig Casey, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Jamison Gibson Park, Mack Hansen, Robbie Henshaw, James Hume, Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, Michael Lowry, Conor Murray, Garry Ringrose, Johnny Sexton (captain).

Forwards: Ryan Baird, Finlay Bealham, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Gavin Coombes, Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Rob Herring, Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Peter O’Mahony, Tom O’Toole, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Dan Sheehan, Nick Timoney, Kieran Treadwell, Josh van der Flier.

Dan Biggar will captain injury-hit Wales for the first time in the Six Nations in the absence of Alun Wyn Jones.

Jones underwent shoulder surgery after doing damage in a 54-16 thrashing at the hands of New Zealand in October.

The lock will not feature in the Six Nations, so Biggar has the honour of leading his country and the fly-half is set to win his 100th cap if he features in all five matches.

Wayne Pivac has included three uncapped players in his 36-man squad, hooker Dewi Lake getting the nod along with back rows Jac Morgan and James Ratti.

Bradley Roberts and Christ Tshiunza are among five players who are in line to make their Six Nations debuts for the holders.

Jonathan Davies is set to play in his 100th Test when Wales start the defence of their title against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on February 5.

Ken Owens, Taulupe Faletau, Dan Lydiate, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, George North and Leigh Halfpenny are among the other players who will not feature in the Six Nations due to injury.

Wales squad:

Forwards:  Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones, Gareth Thomas, Ryan Elias, Dewi Lake, Bradley Roberts, Leon Brown, Tomas Francis, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Ben Carter, Seb Davies, Will Rowlands, Christ Tshiunza, Taine Basham, Ellis Jenkins, Jac Morgan, Ross Moriarty, James Ratti, Aaron Wainwright.

Backs: Gareth Davies, Kieran Hardy, Tomos Williams, Gareth Anscombe, Dan Biggar (captain), Rhys Priestland, Callum Sheedy, Jonathan Davies, Uilisi Halaholo, Nick Tompkins, Owen Watkin, Josh Adams, Alex Cuthbert, Louis Rees-Zammit, Johnny McNicholl, Liam Williams.

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Eddie Jones has named six uncapped players in England's training camp ahead of the Six Nations.

A group of 36 players will meet in Brighton next Monday for a five-day camp before heading to continue their preparations for the tournament at Pennyhill Park.

Orlando Bailey, Alfie Barbeary, Ollie Chessum, Tommy Freeman, Ollie Hassell-Collins and Luke Northmore have been called up for the first time.

England face Scotland in their first Six Nations match at Murrayfield on February 5.

Red Rose head coach Jones said: "Selecting this squad has been a difficult task, we've got plenty of good young players coming through and some of our more experienced are rediscovering their best form.

"We think this 36 for the first training week reflects a good balance of that experience and up-and-coming talent.

"In Brighton we’ll focus on getting the fundamentals of our game in play right and developing the cohesion of the team.

"The Six Nations is going to be the most competitive we've ever seen. All the countries performed well in the autumn, so we need to be at our best and improve with every game."

Ben Youngs is poised to become England's most-capped player during the tournament, as the scrum-half is just two appearances away from Jason Leonard's record tally of 114.

England squad:

Forwards: Alfie Barbeary, Jamie Blamire, Ollie Chessum, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Alex Dombrandt, Charlie Ewels, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Joe Heyes, Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler, Bevan Rodd, Sam Simmonds, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart.

Backs: Mark Atkinson, Orlando Bailey, Owen Farrell, Tommy Freeman, George Furbank, Ollie Hassell-Collins, Max Malins, Joe Marchant, Jonny May, Luke Northmore, Jack Nowell, Raffi Quirke, Harry Randall, Henry Slade, Marcus Smith, Freddie Steward, Ben Youngs.

Dan Biggar fears a "huge step backwards" if there are no crowds allowed at matches moving into 2022.

While crowds at sporting events have yet to be capped in England, matches in Wales and Scotland are now limited when it comes to capacity, amid a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

Wales' first minister Mark Drakeford has not put any timescale on when the restrictions will be lifted, with the Six Nations set to start on February 5.

Scotland will formally review their measures on January 11, while France – where over 18,000 people were in hospital with COVID-19 as of December 30 – has imposed restrictions on travellers from the United Kingdom, with their government insisting that all sportspeople must be fully vaccinated by mid-January in order to enter the country.

Italy, likewise, is experiencing unprecedented levels of new recorded cases of the virus as the Omicron variant spreads across Europe.

But Wales fly-half Biggar believes banning spectators would be a frustrating move that will only damage the game.

"It would be a huge, huge step backwards if there are no crowds moving forwards for clubs and the Six Nations which is obviously such a showpiece event," he told reporters.

"You saw it in the autumn, getting crowds back. Everyone coming to games now has to have a passport, they'll be double or triple-jabbed, and it's an outdoor event so I don't see why they wouldn't be allowed in.

"As long as it's safe, that's the most important thing.

"I hope for an event like the Six Nations and for the game up and down the UK moving forward we get some sort of sensible outcome.

"As long as everyone is safe and jabbed then I think it makes sense to keep crowds in. I think you would have seen a different [Northampton against Harlequins] game if the stadium had been completely empty.

"We played a lot of games with no crowds but if you look at the first handful of games they almost felt like training games.

"It felt like it did not really matter whether you won or lost because it felt like a training match and like the intensity was knocked out of it. You lose any advantage of playing at home and bits and pieces like that.

"I think it would be a huge step backwards if crowds were to go. I think the rest of the lads in Wales are pretty frustrated with it. That's normal frustration isn't it?

"We are probably getting into different things with politics now but I think everything should be aligned."

Wales, the defending Six Nations champions, start their campaign against Ireland on February 5, with their first home game scheduled for February 12, against Scotland.

England captain Owen Farrell is a major doubt for the start of the Six Nations after it was revealed he must undergo ankle surgery.

Farrell limped off during England's 32-15 victory over Australia at Twickenham last Saturday.

Saracens on Thursday revealed the England skipper will be out for 10 to 12 weeks, with an operation required.

The versatile Farrell faces a battle to be fit for the Red Rose's opening game of the 2022 Six Nations against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 5.

Sarries also confirmed in a fitness bulletin that their England hooker Jamie George will be sidelined for eight to 10 weeks due to the knee damage he sustained in the win over the Wallabies.

The Premiership club were able to offer positive news of Elliot Daly, who is back in full training and available to return after recovering from a leg injury.

England head coach Eddie Jones has named Courtney Lawes as captain for the clash with South Africa on Saturday in the absence of Farrell.

Manu Tuilagi moves to inside centre to fill the void left by Farrell, with Joe Marchant starting on the right wing.

Rookie duo Bevan Rodd and Jamie Blamire will start in the front row, while hooker Nic Dolly could make his debut off the bench against the world champions.

Defending champions Wales are set to be without captain Alun Wyn Jones for the Six Nations due to a shoulder injury.

Jones was ruled out of the remainder of the Autumn Nations Series, as he requires surgery due to the damage done in a crushing 54-16 defeat to New Zealand last weekend.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac does not expect the most capped player of all time to play any part when the holders bid to retain their Six Nations title next year.

Pivac said on Thursday: "I don't think he'll be available for the Six Nations.

"You learn a lot about the worth of people when they're not there. I think a lot of people take Alun Wyn for granted – he's always been there and got seniority.

"That leadership is really important. The essence is on others to step up and take that role on."

Jones, who astonishingly recovered from a shoulder injury to captain the British and Irish Lions in South Africa, is in the twilight of his career at the age of 35.

Pivac believes the inspirational towering lock, who won a world record 149th Wales cap in the loss to the All Blacks, can play in the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

"The intention is always to see if Al can get to the World Cup. I think it's a realistic goal personally," the New Zealander said.

"You've just got to see him in training and when he's playing, the efforts he puts in. I don't see anything going anywhere near backwards in terms of his performances.

"A bit of time off, we spoke about this before Al left camp. It's not ideal for him. We're all looking forward to him playing 150 Test matches for Wales, but that is still a goal and I'm sure he'll get there."

Pivac has made six changes to the starting XV for the showdown with South Africa at the Principality Stadium on Saturday, with Ellis Jenkins replacing Ross Moriarty (shoulder) in what will be his first Test for three years after recovering from a knee injury.

Dan Biggar returns at fly-half, while wing Louis Rees-Zammit, centre Nick Tompkins and prop Rhys Carre also start and Jonathan Davies takes over as captain.
 

Wales team: Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit, Jonathan Davies (captain), Nick Tompkins, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Tomos Williams; Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Will Rowlands, Adam Beard, Ellis Jenkins, Taine Basham, Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: Bradley Roberts, Wyn Jones, WillGriff John, Ben Carter, Seb Davies, Gareth Davies, Gareth Anscombe, Liam Williams.

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