Banned Farrell can play England 6N opener

Owen Farrell will be available for England's Six Nations opener after the Rugby Football Union (RFU) handed him a four-match ban for a dangerous, high tackle in the Premiership match between Saracens and Gloucester.But the good news for England coach Steve Borthwick that Farrell will be available for the match against Scotland on February 4 has been offset by bad news on the injury front as Sale flanker Tom Curry is set to miss the two games.CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR EARLY BIRD AND HOSPITALITY TICKETS FOR THE HSBC SYDNEY SEVENSCurry, who has won 45 caps and skippered England for the first time in last season's Six Nations opener against Scotland, was hurt during Sale's Gallagher Premiership victory over Harlequins on Sunday.England head coach Borthwick is already without Exeter hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie for at least the start of the tournament after he suffered an ankle injury last weekend.England kick off their campaign at home to Scotland on February 4 – Borthwick's first game in charge – before hosting Italy eight days later.Farrell escaped any on-pitch punishment in last Friday's match after his shoulder made contact with the jaw of Jack Clement but he was then later cited for "dangerous tackling".The television match official (TMO) brought the incident to the attention of the referee, who ruled it had taken place too far back in play for any action to be taken at the time. Farrell went on to land a match-winning drop goal in the final minute of the game.On Monday, however, the RFU announced that Farrell had been cited for "dangerous tackling", and the hearing was held on Tuesday evening."Farrell accepted foul play but challenged that it met the red card threshold, however, the panel upheld the charge and Farrell received a four match ban," the RFU said in a statement on Wednesday.The RFU added that the four-match ban will be reduced to a three-week ban if Farrell completes the World Rugby Coaching Intervention Programme.The three-week ban means he will miss two European and one Premiership match for Saracens but frees him to play for England against Scotland on February 4 and Italy on February 12, both at Twickenham.In September 2020, Farrell was red carded and banned for 10 weeks, then cut to five, for a "reckless and totally unacceptable" high tackle on Wasps' then-18-year-old Charlie Atkinson. He also served a two-game ban for a high tackle in 2016, long before the current protocols on tackle height were introduced.Farrell, who has been in brilliant form at five-eighth for table-topping Saracens this season, was a regular at inside centre for England under Eddie Jones, with Marcus Smith preferred at 10.Smith has not played since November due to an ankle injury but is expected to return for Harlequins this weekend.