Saracens: "Owen Farrell has decided to take a break from international rugby in order to prioritise his and his family's mental well-being. This means he will not be available for the 2024 Six Nations"; Steve Borthwick: "Everyone at England Rugby is fully behind Owen's decision"
Thursday 30 November 2023 06:42, UK
Owen Farrell has ruled himself out of the 2024 Six Nations after deciding to take a break from international rugby to prioritise his and his family's mental well-being.
The 32-year-old, who has won 112 Test caps for England, most recently captained his country to a third-place finish at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
His form and place in Steve Borthwick's starting side, in addition to his interaction with referees, has recently come in for scrutiny.
Farrell overtook Jonny Wilkinson as England's leading point scorer of all-time during the World Cup, while he has won a Six Nations Grand Slam (2016), two further Six Nations titles (2017, 2020) and two series victories vs Australia (2016, 2022). Farrell also toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2013, 2017 and 2021.
A statement via Farrell's club Saracens read: "Owen Farrell has decided to take a break from international rugby in order to prioritise his and his family's mental well-being.
"This means he will not be available for selection for the 2024 Six Nations.
"He will continue to play for Saracens and captain the club. As always, Owen will have the full support of everyone at the club."
England head coach Borthwick said: "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. Together with all of us at England Rugby, I will do everything I can to ensure that he has the support he requires going forward."
The Rugby Players' Association, meanwhile, added: "Owen Farrell has the unconditional support of everyone at the RPA.
"He is a leader and figurehead in the English game, but is also an individual, husband and father. His wellbeing comes first, and we will support him in every way we can, going forward."
Former England centre Luther Burrell told Sky Sports News...
"It did come as quite a surprise, to be honest with you. But upon reflection, it does actually make sense to me.
"A player of Owen Farrell's class and leadership ability, to do this act of courage shows true bravery, and a true testament of his character.
"But when you look deeper into it, you can almost understand why it's come to this point. He was bombarded with scrutiny, 60,000 fans were booing him in Marseille. Rugby players, we're not robots, we do have emotions, and I think sometimes that is forgotten.
"He has come under such scrutiny in the past decade, and had his game analysed by people behind their keyboards, so I'm not too surprised it's come to this. I'm just disheartened this is the way he's seeing his time away from international duty.
"If any player has earned a sabbatical, it's someone like Owen.
"It's very troubling times. Owen has that ability to lead from the front, we see that from the way he plays, so with that you're naturally going to come under some scrutiny. He's England captain, amassed over 100 caps, he's the all-time leading point scorer for our country, passing Jonny Wilkinson who is a legend.
"It's troubling that the pressure from outside of his job is what I believe to leading him now to take his time away. That's really disheartening, because rugby is a game for all and supported across the world.
"This dark side of social media where people feel they can continue to pull players down; players that put their heart and soul in, and that have families. Owen's family would have been there when he was being booed by 60,000 fans, it's quite abhorrent behaviour to be honest.
"My thoughts and cares really go out to him and his family. It has to be a watershed moment."
Sky Sports News reporter James Cole...
"How and why Owen Farrell has come to this decision is unclear, Saracens' statement is very short and succinct, but clearly mental health is at the forefront of it.
"You have to commend Farrell for making what must be a very, very difficult decision in the interest of his and his family's mental health. We saw Ben Stokes do a similar thing in cricket 18 months to two years ago.
"What you can say is that Farrell has been through a hell of a lot over the last 12 months before the World Cup. He was red-carded at Twickenham against Wales, received a lot of personal abuse following what was a bit of a circus around that red card - it was overturned by an independent disciplinary panel, World Rugby appealed that and he was given a four-week ban.
"And then during the World Cup, he was constantly booed, he received a lot of abuse on social media. His dad Andy Farrell, the head coach of Ireland, said it was disgusting what his son had to go through.
"Speaking from a purely rugby point of view, this is a big shock and big blow for England and Steve Borthwick. He now needs to find a new captain and new fly-half for next year's Six Nations.
"Without Farrell, England will be severely weakened. He is an underrated but hugely, hugely important player for England and Steve Borthwick."