Farrell to lead England against Ireland in Hartley's absence

Farrell to lead England against Ireland in Hartley's absence

"Ireland are the best side in the world", the England coach said after naming his squad for their Six Nations opener against Ireland in Dublin on February 2.

Flanker Chris Robshaw and centre Jonathan Joseph have not been not considered because of injury, but there are returns for Mako and Billy Vunipola and lock Joe Launchbury. It meant Ireland were crowned champions - and Grand Slam winners - on England's home turf.

Instead of naming a 35-man squad for the championship, England head coach Eddie Jones has been keen to highlight that this a squad focussed exclusively on preparing for this key clash, as he told RugbyPass at Twickenham.

Jones responded, "It's a bit of both, I think his form has been good and we've always wanted to give him the opportunity".

To beat Ireland, who Jones says are the "best side in the world" right now after their historic win over the All Blacks back in November, England must "compete brutally in all the contest areas of the game" according to the head coach.

Fly-half Owen Farrell will take on sole captaincy duties.

"We are very happy with the squad and have a number of players who have come back from long-term injury", said England boss Eddie Jones.

Jones on Thursday named Owen Farrell as his captain ahead of the season-opener.

"Unfortunately Dylan won't be available for the Ireland game so we won't take him to Portugal, but we are hopeful he will be back later in the series", Jones said.

Ollie Thorley (Gloucester) is included for the first time and is one of four uncapped players selected alongside Ben Earl (Saracens), Dan Robson (Wasps) and Jack Singleton (Worcester Warriors).

"Benny Youngs has been our starting nine and we've got Wiggy and Danny - both good players, ready to step back into the mould". The players have been playing for their clubs with different styles and different playing philosophies, so it's about getting them thinking about playing the England way.

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