Owen Farrell has returned to the England squad with a renewed hunger and has teamed up with Marcus Smith to set about revitalising their misfiring attack, according to the assistant coach Martin Gleeson.
Farrell missed the entire Six Nations through injury but has returned to the England fold for a mini training camp where he and Smith are plotting much-needed improvements before the summer tour of Australia.
Eddie Jones has made no secret of his desire to pair Smith and Farrell together in the 10-12 axis – ideally with Manu Tuilagi outside them – but, because of injuries and Covid complications, the two have played only 68 minutes together, against Australia last autumn.
In Farrell’s absence, England scored only eight tries – five of which against Italy – during a disappointing Six Nations campaign. Since making his comeback for Saracens, however, Farrell has shown encouraging signs of form, having slipped off the boil last season and enduring a disappointing British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa.
England gathered on Sunday for their three-day camp in south-west London to begin preparations for the tour of Australia. Gleeson, the attack coach who is confident of “significant improvements” against the Wallabies, said Farrell and Smith have been putting their heads together.
“[Owen] is key for us, a really important figure within the squad,” Gleeson said. “In the autumn him and Marcus got on really well. He drives a lot of the behaviours, the attitude, the desire in the team. The guy is hungry. He’s a student of the game. We have little groups with him, me and Marcus, speaking about what we need to do. It’s good to have him back in camp, really good to have his presence back again. I think it’s going to be a massive positive for the group.
“They do work together really well, and I think [Owen] can free up Marcus a little bit so he doesn’t have too much to think about. Marcus plays with a smile on his face, plays what he sees and is pretty instinctive. [Owen] can be really controlled and methodical. The combination of those two from what I’ve seen is a good one.”
Tuilagi’s return to the squad has also been welcomed by England while Gleeson is impressed by what he has seen from the 19-year-old London Irish speedster Henry Arundell. England will face the Barbarians on 19 June before seeking to extend their winning sequence against the Wallabies to nine.
“From the Australia tour we want to see a significant improvement in where we’re going,” Gleeson said. “The next bit is the biggest bit where we’ll hopefully see the biggest difference in our attack.”