Six Nations: Eddie Jones says Owen Farrell’s move to inside centre will ‘spread out responsibility’ for England against Italy

England head coach Eddie Jones says he has moved Owen Farrell from fly-half to inside centre for the Six Nations game against Italy to “spread out the responsibility” of his midfield playmakers.

Jones defended his skipper after a below-par performance in the Calcutta Cup debacle at Twickenham which led to scrutiny over his place, stating he would not drop Farrell on the basis of one bad game.

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Farrell has however been switched from fly-half to inside centre, with George Ford brought into the side at 10 and Worcester centre Ollie Lawrence dropped from the squad.

“It gives us a bit better balance in our attack,” Jones told Sky Sports News. “A lot of the responsibility fell on Owen last week and we need to spread that responsibility.

“We’d like to get our back three and Sladey (Henry Slade) into the game more and with George and Owen at 10 and 12 we’ll be able to do that.

“To me, it’s a bit like a Test batsman who averages 60 and gets a duck, it’s different if you’re a Test batsman and you average 25 and get a duck, people can call for your head but I think it’s entirely inappropriate for Owen.

“He didn’t have a great game on Saturday but he wasn’t the only one and I don’t really understand why there’s such a strong desire to criticise him at this stage.

“Sometimes players just have bad games – it would be great if we could play every game at the same level all the time but even the greatest athletes have bad games here and there. It’s about the ability to bounce back quickly.

When asked if he had considered taking the captaincy from Farrell to lighten his load of responsibility, Jones said: “That’s not a discussion we’re having.”

Jones also gave his opinion on the recent rise in abuse for prominent sportspeople, with Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce and Premier League football referee Mike Dean receiving death threats.

“I heard someone make a great comment – 20 years ago, you’d read it on the toilet wall and that’s just transferred to the internet,” he said.

“Nothing different is happening, there’s just more volume of it and more people take notice of it but I treat it the same way – when I used to go to the toilet, I didn’t take any notice of it.”

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