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England star Owen Farrell still has no idea if Saturday's clash against Tonga is his 100th Test

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It should be a grand occasion for Owen Farrell at Twickenham on Saturday but the prospect of reaching his Test century is being undermined by farcical uncertainty about the landmark.

After being named at fly-half for England’s autumn opener against Tonga, the captain was asked if it will indeed be his 100th international appearance. ‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘It’s not up to me, is it?’

The doubt has been created by the delay in the Lions’ committee deciding whether or not to award caps for their pre-tour fixture against Japan at Murrayfield.

Prospect of Owen Farrell reaching his Test century is being undermined by farcical uncertainty

Prospect of Owen Farrell reaching his Test century is being undermined by farcical uncertainty

TWICKENHAM TEAM

ENGLAND: Freddie Steward (Leicester); Adam Radwan (Newcastle), Henry Slade (Exeter), Manu Tuilagi (Sale), Jonny May (Gloucester); Owen Farrell (Saracens, capt), Ben Youngs (Leicester); Ellis Genge (Leicester), Jamie George (Saracens), Kyle Sinckler (Bristol), Maro Itoje (Saracens), Jonny Hill (Exeter), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Tom Curry (Sale), Sam Underhill (Bath).

But that game took place in June — nearly five months ago. If caps are belatedly awarded, 

Farrell has already reached the momentous three-figure milestone for England and the Lions. If not, he will do so tomorrow. It is a strange and avoidable state of confusion.

On the basis that he will bring up his hundred against Tonga, head coach Eddie Jones was asked to assess his skipper’s impact.

‘He’s been a fine ambassador for English rugby,’ he said. 

‘He’s a hard-working player who has copped a lot of criticism throughout his career. 

‘He’s had to battle hard to be a Test player and he continues to battle hard. We haven’t seen the best of him yet.

‘He’s still a young man and there’s still so much to go for him.’

Farrell remains the captain, at the head of a new England squad hierarchy. Yesterday, Tom Curry, Ellis Genge and Courtney Lawes were announced as vice-captains for this series, which also includes matches against Australia and South Africa.

It is early days, but Farrell, 30, was encouraged by how the new leadership group is functioning.

‘So far, it’s been good,’ he said. ‘We’ve been working well together, delegating a bit, making sure the team’s got a voice.’

Farrell still has no idea if Saturday's clash against Tonga at Twickenham is his 100th Test

Farrell still has no idea if Saturday’s clash against Tonga at Twickenham is his 100th Test

Jones picked Genge ahead of Joe Marler at loosehead and gave him a leading role as a reflection of the strides the prop has made, especially in recent times as the new captain of resurgent Leicester.

‘Ellis has got a great set of human qualities,’ he said. ‘He had quite a tough upbringing and he understands what young players go through. In 2016, when he was first selected for England, he was a fairly rough-and-tumble young fellow.

‘We selected him basically on potential — that he could be a good scrummaging and an exceptional ball-carrying loosehead.

‘In that five or six years, he’s had a tough time in the England side. A lot of the time he’s been behind two world-class looseheads in Marler and Mako Vunipola. He’s continued to mature. I think maybe having a family’s helped him. Now he’s a very respected member of the team. He’s become a real leader.’

Lions’ committee still to decide whether to award caps for Japan fixture five months ago

Lions’ committee still to decide whether to award caps for Japan fixture five months ago

When asked about how Genge and his friend Kyle Sinckler have developed together with England, Jones added: ‘They are funny, those two. They started off like raging bulls. They wanted to hit everything that moved, they wanted to argue about everything. The whole world was against them.

‘Then they go through a period where they settle a bit and now I think we are seeing the acceleration that will take both of them to be very good players for England.’

Curry was named at No 8, ahead of specialist Alex Dombrandt — as forecast by Sportsmail last month. Jones said: ‘Curry’s development since 2017 has been outstanding. If anyone picks a World XV now, he would go close to being in it.

‘The good players keep on adding to their game. You look at Roger Federer in tennis — why does he still have a tennis coach at 40? Because every time he plays, he’s got a new stroke. Richie McCaw was the same. Ma’a Nonu was the same. McCaw started out as a defender and became a great link player at the end of his career.

‘That’s the thing with Tom Curry, so we want to keep challenging him to be a better player.

England head coach Eddie Jones (above) has hailed the impact of his 30-year-old skipper

England head coach Eddie Jones (above) has hailed the impact of his 30-year-old skipper

‘Playing No 8 is a different set of skills. You’ve got to read the game a lot more and playing there will help him become an even better seven.’

Jones’ desire to start with Marcus Smith at fly-half — alongside Farrell at inside centre — was scuppered by the Quins’ playmaker prodigy’s nagging calf strain since coming in to camp. 

‘When you don’t train, it’s hard to run the team around the paddock but we do believe he’s fit,’ he said. 

‘He’s passed all the stages they have now but what he hasn’t been able to do is work the combinations on the field so we felt it was better for him to come off the bench than to start. ‘He’s done a little bit of light training. We’ll get him to sweat a bit tomorrow and he’ll be ready.’ 

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