Farrell to rejoin England squad after false positive Covid test

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False positive - England captain Owen Farrell (AFP/PHILL MAGAKOE)
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England captain Owen Farrell has been cleared to face Australia at Twickenham next Saturday following a false positive test for the coronavirus, the Rugby Football Union announced Sunday.

Farrell returned a positive result from a PCR Covid test taken on Thursday morning and went into self-isolation before being ruled out of England's 69-3 hammering of Tonga in their Autumn Nations Series opener at Twickenham on Saturday.

But he could now win his 100th Test cap against the Wallabies following further medical analysis of his test result, with an RFU statement saying: "The sample was reviewed by the lab and determined as a false positive test on Saturday morning and subsequently accepted by NHS (National Health Service) test and trace today (Sunday).

"His (Farrell's) subsequent PCRs have also been negative and therefore he has been released from self-isolation."

Sunday's announcement ended a concerning 48 hours for the squad, with England wing Jonny May saying: "It was stressful. It's hard enough preparing for a Test match without all of that.

"I was worried about coming down to breakfast and the game not being on if we had had a few more positives. To perform under those conditions and distractions is credit to the team."

Farrell had been due to start at fly-half against Tonga but was ruled out just 90 minutes before kick-off and only on Sunday was he allowed to rejoin the England squad at their Bagshot training base, southwest of London.

Northampton's George Furbank replaced Farrell at fly-half against Tonga, with Courtney Lawes taking over as captain for the match with the Pacific islanders.

England coach Eddie Jones had hoped to deploy Farrell at inside centre, with rising star Marcus Smith at fly-half.

But in addition to Farrell's illness, Smith was not deemed fit to start against Tonga because of a leg injury, although the Harlequins playmaker came off the bench to score one of England's 11 tries and land five conversions.

Jones, however, could field a new 10-12 axis of Smith and Farrell when he names his side on Thursday, with England bidding for an eighth successive win over the veteran Australian coach's native Wallabies.

But that would mean breaking up the centre pairing of Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade, player of the match against Tonga.

The Wallabies will head to Twickenham on the back of a match against Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday.

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