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England can still thrive in the Six Nations even without the likely France-bound Owen Farrell according to Jamie George, who would be honoured to replace his friend as national captain.

Farrell led Steve Borthwick’s side to a third-place finish at last year’s World Cup before then announcing he was taking a step away from Test rugby for personal and family reasons.

The 32-year-old’s absence from the highest level could be for longer than initially anticipated too given he is in advanced talks to join Paris-based Top14 leaders Racing 92 on a two-year deal.

Such a move would make Farrell ineligible for England and while that is yet to officially be confirmed, what is certain is that he won’t feature for his country in the 2024 Six Nations.

George, a Saracens and England team-mate of Farrell, is a leading contender to take over the captaincy. Ellis Genge and George Ford are other options for head coach Borthwick to consider although the former is a doubt for the Six Nations opener with Italy due to a hamstring injury.

Jamie George would love to replace his mate Owen Farrell and be England’s Six Nations captain – ‘I’m flattered just to be in the mix!’

Saracens star Jamie George would be honoured to replace Owen Farrell as England captain

Skipper Farrell stepped away from England duty to prioritise his family's mental well-being

Skipper Farrell stepped away from England duty to prioritise his family’s mental well-being

‘I’ve played with Owen for a very long time. I’ve known him since we were 14. He’s been an absolutely incredible player for England,’ hooker George told Mail Sport.

‘He’s world class, one of the best to have ever played for England in my opinion. But at the same time, in his position in particular, look at the talent we have. While any team will miss a character like Owen, I think it gives opportunity to guys like George, Marcus Smith and Fin Smith.

‘Those are exciting names who have huge amounts of talent.

‘That’s why I’m particularly excited about this Six Nations coming up because it will give opportunity to some who haven’t had it before.’

On the English captaincy void, George added: ‘Whoever gets it will have the backing of the entire squad. Owen will go down as one of the best ever England captains because of the way he transformed the team and the journey he’s taken us on. Of course that will leave a gap.

‘But again, like at fly-half, it gives an opportunity for someone else to step in. I’ll be very flattered if I’m in the conversation. It would be a huge honour, but I haven’t heard anything yet.’

Like George, Farrell has played his entire club career with Saracens.

‘I’ll be very happy for him regardless of what he decides. He’s putting himself and his family first,’ George said of the Test centurion and three-time British Lion.

‘That takes a lot of courage and personality.’

In Farrell’s absence, Ford is favourite to start at No 10 when England begin their Six Nations campaign in Rome on February 3. George’s experience – he has 85 England caps and also captained the Lions in a midweek game against the Sharks in 2021 – will be key in the months to come regardless of whether or not he is Borthwick’s official skipper.

He is a certain England starter.

‘English rugby is in a great spot, I really think that,’ said George, speaking as an ambassador for Funding Circle who are supporting the growth of his physio business off the field.

‘Look at the Premiership this season and how much young English talent has stepped up across the teams. We went to the World Cup to win it so didn’t achieve what we wanted.

‘Now we’re at a stage where we really want to kick on. The overriding thing we took out of the World Cup was pride.

‘We showed fight, determination and character, particularly in the South Africa game. That for me is the foundation of what this England team should be moving forwards.

George has 85 England caps and also captained the Lions in a midweek game in 2021

George has 85 England caps and also captained the Lions in a midweek game in 2021

‘I’m as keen and determined as I’ve ever been to play for England. What the World Cup showed me is I’m still good enough. I still feel I can get better and have a lot to add to the England team. Ireland and France will be favourites for the Six Nations and that’s fine. We’ll get our head down and look to hit the ground running against Italy.’

The forward says whoever is named captain will have backing of the whole squad

The forward says whoever is named captain will have backing of the whole squad

As England prepare for a new era in 2024, the RFU has several off-field issues to deal with in the background – chief among them the implementation of new hybrid contracts for the country’s 25 best players. The new system – where the RFU will top up the club salaries of the players to the tune of £150,000 for the start of next season – looks unlikely to be enough to keep Farrell in England. A Racing move is very much on the cards and would see Farrell join a host of other English players who have already moved to the French league.

‘If these contracts mean they’ll keep more players in the country of course it’s positive,’ said George, who is understood to have been offered one himself.

‘There are a few players heading to France but there is also an exciting group wanting to stay in England and play in the Six Nations.

‘I want to stay. I’ve been very clear with Steve and Mark McCall at Saracens about that. I want to be a key part of Saracens and England going forward.’

Jamie George is an ambassador for Funding Circle. For more information on Funding Circle and its range of financial products, see: https://www.fundingcircle.com/uk/

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