London – Owen Farrell, who will captain England on the three Test tour of South Africa, has the same “fear factor” as Australian legend George Gregan, according to head coach Eddie Jones.
Farrell replaces hooker Dylan Hartley, who is suffering from concussion, as captain on a tour where England will bid to get back to winning ways after losing three successive Tests in the Six Nations.
Jones has no fears over flyhalf Farrell’s ability to lead the team and says he sees similarities with Gregan – who captained the Wallabies under Jones to the 2003 World Cup final, where they lost to England in the dying seconds of extra-time.
“George Gregan was fantastic,” said Jones.
“I have never seen a stronger winner than him.
“He demanded stuff from the team and they were frightened not to give it to him. He was super on the field but not as good off it.
“That is probably close to the mark and so we need to find people who can work off the field to help Owen.”
However, Jones said people should give the 26-year-old Saracens star time to get used to the role, as not even the greatest captains – such as another Wallaby skipper in John Eales – were outstanding leaders from the start.
“When he (Eales) was first captain of Australia his nickname was Optus. Optus is a telecommunication company and their catchphrase was ‘yes’,” said Jones.
“The players nicknamed him Optus because he said yes to everything. Obviously he wasn’t a great captain then, but he ended up being one of the talismanic captains.
“You don’t expect a captain immediately to be this all-conquering figure. It takes time, it takes effort and it takes patience.
“Owen has got the job for South Africa so he has five weeks to work through, find his own style, influence the team, and we will see how he goes.”
Farrell and his team-mates face a mighty challenge to restore England’s lustre – prior to their Six Nations meltdown they had only lost one previous match under Jones since he took over following England’s first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup.
They have yet to win a series in South Africa, with their last Test victory against the Springboks on South African soil coming in Bloemfontein in 2000.