In a surprising turn of events, England rugby captain Owen Farrell has announced his decision to take a break from international rugby, citing the need to prioritize his and his family’s mental well-being. This news comes directly from his club side, Saracens, as they confirmed this development on Wednesday. Farrell’s absence will extend to the upcoming Six Nations tournament, although he will continue to represent and captain Saracens during this period.
The 32-year-old rugby star recently led England to a commendable third-place finish at the Rugby World Cup, a tournament in which he also achieved a significant personal milestone by becoming his country’s all-time leading points scorer. This achievement saw him surpass the legendary Jonny Wilkinson’s record of 1,179 points. Additionally, Farrell secured the title of the top scorer at the World Cup with an impressive tally of 75 points.
England’s head coach, Steve Borthwick, expressed his support for Farrell’s decision, stating, “Everyone at England Rugby is fully behind Owen’s decision.” Borthwick emphasized the immense challenges faced by elite athletes and praised Farrell as an exemplary player, captain, and leader who has dedicated over a decade to England’s rugby setup. He also acknowledged Owen’s courage in opening up about his mental health and pledged to provide him with the necessary support moving forward.
It’s worth noting that Farrell faced a suspension during the early stages of England’s World Cup campaign. He received a red card in a warm-up game for a dangerous tackle, sparking controversy as the red card and subsequent ban were initially rescinded and then reinstated. During this tumultuous period, Owen’s father, Ireland’s head coach Andy Farrell, criticized the rugby community’s response to the disciplinary process, while Borthwick condemned the personal attacks directed towards the fly-half.
Furthermore, during the tournament, Farrell addressed the issue of online abuse directed at his England teammate Tom Curry. He expressed his concerns about the increasing prevalence of such abuse, stating that it was unacceptable and a worrying trend. “You’re dealing with people. You’re dealing with human beings. Just because you’re saying stuff on your phone or behind a computer screen, it doesn’t make it acceptable,” he emphasized.
Owen Farrell’s decision to step away from international rugby is a significant one, as he has been a standout player for England for the past decade. Since his international debut in 2012, he has earned 112 caps for England, primarily in the fly-half and center positions, and has served as the team’s captain since 2019.
Owen Farrell’s announcement to prioritize his mental well-being by taking a break from international rugby is a testament to the importance of mental health in the world of professional sports. His decision has garnered support from his club and the rugby community, emphasizing the need for athletes to address their mental health openly and seek the support they require.