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Steve Borthwick ‘fully behind’ Owen Farrell's big decision

By PA
Steve Borthwick has shown support for Owen Farrell's decision

Owen Farrell has received the full backing of England head coach Steve Borthwick after deciding to take a break from international rugby to prioritise his and his family’s mental health.

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It means that England captain Farrell, who has led England at the last two World Cups and won 112 caps, will not be available for this season’s Six Nations Championship.

In his absence – no date has been announced for a Test return – and following the international retirement of Courtney Lawes, Bristol prop Ellis Genge is a probable successor as skipper.

George Ford would be favourite to take Farrell’s fly-half role for the Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on February 3, with Marcus Smith also a contender.

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.”

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In a statement announcing the surprise – and sobering – development, Farrell’s club Saracens said: “Owen Farrell has decided to take a break from international rugby in order to prioritise his and his family’s mental well-being.

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“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.”

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 well-being comes first, and we will support him in every way we can, going forward.”

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Farrell led England to a third-place World Cup finish in France last month, but the tournament build-up proved far from plain-sailing for him.

He was sent off in a World Cup warm-up game against Wales, only for an independent disciplinary panel to cause an outcry when it cleared him following a shoulder-led tackle to the head of Wales forward Taine Basham, which was expected to result in a significant ban.

World Rugby then appealed that decision, and he received a four-match ban that included England’s opening two World Cup fixtures against Argentina and Japan.

Farrell’s father – Ireland head coach Andy Farrell – labelled media coverage of the episode “a circus”, while Borthwick said in August: “The commentary around it seems to move from an issue around the tackle to personal attacks on the character of the man, which I think is just wrong.”

Farrell, 32, was subjected to considerable attacks on social media, and at times during the World Cup he was booed by sections of the crowd during England games.

Having made his England debut in 2012, Farrell has amassed an England record 1,237 points, recently overtaking Jonny Wilkinson.

He captained England at the World Cup in the 2019 and 2023 tournaments and has also featured on three British and Irish Lions tours.

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Rugby 1 hours ago
How Queensland Reds can spark Schmidt's Wallaby revolution

interesting. I did see last year Queensland and Brad Thorn use some bokke moves like the 6-2 bench and a move the bulls did in bringing back the tap and go from 5 out instead of the line out and maul. There can be many errors in a lineout, you loose control esp. if ref calls a borderline not straight, jumping across line, etc etc it is out of your control, then the maul, a few rules can mess you up again in the eyes of a ref, or others, you lose control. At least in a tap and go you control the move and the play, just have to 1. catch the ball and 2 watch the jackling from opposition, 3 watch being held up over try line. WAY to go I reckon. *2024. Tap and go 5 meters out.* The axis is key, Lynagh McDermott (great cricket name) Wilson So Joe Schmidt will be watching and the Pacific Lions coaches are in Melbourne watching, poach city. I think if Q can get the Kiss of life not the Kiss of death they may well unlock that stacked backline. Vunivalu is improving. Kiss (and Brad Davis, Jonathan Fisher, Zane Hilton and Dale Roberson) and the progressive attacking style may work. He loves coaching. No pressure. Hell he knows the Bokke and Ireland, and time with ulster. Based on his league past he will understand how to break this flat line. He is a hands on skill set coach. One thing i am still waiting to see in union is the skill often shown in league, when 5 meters out they can kick into the post get the deflection and wrong foot opposition to score. Good Luck Queensland, hope you do well. They have the Hurricanes next Bula

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