Owen Farrell has gone back to basics as he prepares to play rugby for the first time since his five-game ban for a dangerous tackle.
The England captain is set to feature against the Barbarians on Sunday before skippering his country’s Six Nations title decider against Italy six days later.
Ahead of his return team boss Eddie Jones revealed that Farrell had been working on his tackle technique with Jon Clarke, England’s head of strength and conditioning and former team mate of Farrell’s dad Andy.
“When I went to the gym this morning he was doing extra work with Jon,” said Jones. “Tackle technique is a constant work-on for not only Owen, but a lot of our players.
“The laws of the high tackle have become increasingly tighter, which is for the welfare of the players, and all of ours are conscious of their responsibility.”
Jones conceded that Farrell had “made a mistake in a game” – referring to the high shot which knocked out Wasps’ Charlie Atkinson and was branded “totally unacceptable” by disciplinary chief Mike Hamlin.
“We’ve moved on from that and now his job is to be the best England captain he can be.”
The Saracens star is in a 32-man squad for Sunday that includes Piers Francis following his recovery from coronavirus.
Uncapped Worcester centre Ollie Lawrence keeps his place with Jones admitting he is a potential replacement to the injured Manu Tuilagi.
But Elliot Daly misses the weekend having been sent to a consultant for tests on what the Australian described as a “bump” on his leg that has been there a “good period of time”.
England have not played since March 7, when they beat Wales to go top of the Six Nations table.
Hitting those heights after seven months away is a big ask but Jones said: “Our aim is not to be where we were at… it’s to be better than that.
“We’ve had two camps to try to get the players to the right physical, psychological and tactical standard that we need to play better than we did. We’re aiming high.”
Nobody is more impatient for the Italy game than Ben Youngs who has been stranded on 99 caps through the pandemic and, according to Jones, has returned with a “sparkle in his eyes”.
“Ben knows he has to perform,” said Jones. “The 100th game is important but the 150th game will be more important for him. That’s what he’s striving to do.”
Wasps will learn their Premiership Final fate today when their latest Covid test results come back. They so far have 11 positives and one more is likely to mean forfeiting their place in Saturday’s showpiece to Bristol.