Sports Editor Lucy Blitz reports on Owen Farrell set to miss Six Nations and prioritise his mental health instead
England rugby captain Owen Farrell has chosen to make himself unavailable for next year’s Six Nations tournament, deciding to ‘prioritise his and his family’s mental wellbeing’.
Farrell, who led England to a third-placed finish at the most recent World Cup, has opted to take a break from his international career, with no return date yet announced for the 32-year-old. Farrell’s club, Saracens, explained that he had ‘decided to take a break from international rugby’ and ‘will have the support of everyone at the club.’
The fly-half and centre was subject to much criticism during his time in France and faced booing before appearances for England, on the back of a red card received during a warm-up match against Wales in August.
Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio took to social media to share his support for Farrell and hit out at the treatment of the Saracens captain.
‘I’ve said it many times. [Owen Farrell] is our captain and potentially England’s greatest ever player. The level of abuse he receives is sickening. I really think it’s time for player sabbaticals, such are the demands of the game today.’
Meanwhile, England head coach Steve Borthwick said that ‘everyone at England Rugby is fully behind Owen’s decision. Since making his debut, he has been an integral part of the England set-up for over a decade and the demands on elite athletes are extremely challenging.’
‘He is an exemplary player, captain, and leader, and always gives his all for his country. It is with typical courage that Owen has made this decision to open up in this manner.’
Borthwick now faces a selection nightmare, after senior players Courtney Lawes, Ben Youngs and Jonny May all announced their international retirements after the World Cup.
Looking at the squad members who could be asked to lead England next February, suggestions are that Ellis Genge will face the call-up, while George Ford is the likely candidate tasked with taking on the role of fly-half in Farrell’s absence.
Farrell became England’s all-time record points scorer last month, after his 18th-minute penalty against Samoa in Pool D took his tally to 1,186 points – surpassing Johnny Wilkinson’s 1,179 total. The England star assumed the role of captain in 2019 under Eddie Jones but missed England’s first two World Cup games following his red card against Wales at Twickenham.
Farrell will continue to play and captain for his club Saracens, whilst England begin their Six Nations campaign in Italy on 3rd February.
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