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George not Farrell best man to nurture young England talent, says Lawes

Jamie George’s ‘lighter touch’ is better suited to captaining an inexperienced England Six Nations squad than the more ‘abrasive’ manner of Owen Farrell, said former Test lock Courtney Lawes.

Writing in The Times, Lawes says Farrell would make an excellent captain of next year’s British and Irish Lions team in their series with Australia as they will be experienced players used to playing at the top level.

However, Lawes, who retired from Test duty after England’s surprising third placed finish at last year’s Rugby World Cup, believes 33-year-old George possesses the same captaincy skills set as his precedessor at hooker Dylan Hartley.

Hartley was Eddie Jones’s first skipper after the combative Australian replaced Stuart Lancaster as England coach following the disastrous first-round exit in the 2015 World Cup.

Hartley led a revamped England side to the 2016 Six Nations Grand Slam and the 2017 title — a successive Grand Slam denied them by a final match defeat to Ireland. 

George has got the nod from Steve Borthwick as Farrell — who had taken a break from the game due to mental health reasons — will move to French Top 14 side Racing 92 next season.  

“It feels like an exciting new start for the team,” said Lawes.

“Steve Borthwick, the head coach, has rewarded a lot of young talent from the Premiership and made the right decision in appointing Jamie George to be the captain.

“England will miss Owen Farrell as a player after his decision to stand down from this Six Nations and sign for Racing 92 but his abrasive, direct style of leadership is better suited to an experienced squad.”

‘Bringing that heat’

Lawes, who skippered England during times in his 105 appearances, said George’s gentler manner will be ideal for the squad as they prepare to confront Italy this weekend in Rome and then back that up with a home game against Wales. 

“England have a lot of guys who are uncapped or have not played much Test rugby,” said Lawes.

“They will be worried about making mistakes and nervous about the standards they have to hit.

“You need players to be prepared to make good mistakes so they can grow from them.

“Jamie will drive standards with his actions but he has a lighter touch.

“He is not going to give them as much of a hard time.

“Jamie understands there are different ways to get a point across.”

However, Lawes says the squad will miss Farrell as a player in their bid to become Six Nations title contenders after two years in the doldrums. 

“It can’t be all sunshine and rainbows in camp,” said Lawes.

“That is where England will miss Owen as a player.

“That intensity he brings. He lives and dies by the team.

“If you don’t have that at international level then you are screwed and England are going to have to find that from somewhere.”

Lawes says that will not be George’s job and he will have learned a lot from Hartley after he spent his first 18 Tests coming on for the skipper as a replacement.

“I can see Maro Itoje and Ellis Genge bringing that heat when it’s needed,” said Lawes.

“Jamie’s job will be to coax the best out of this young team.

“Dylan Hartley achieved that better than any other England captain I played with.”

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