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The Steve Borthwick update on Owen Farrell and his England future

By PA
Owen Farrell in action last month with Saracens (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The future of Owen Farrell with England remains uncertain after Steve Borthwick revealed he has been given no indication by his captain that he plans to return.

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Farrell will miss at least the Guinness Six Nations to prioritise his and his family’s mental well-being following last autumn’s Rugby World Cup in France, during which the Saracens fly-half was repeatedly booed by supporters at games.

With Farrell also likely to be unavailable for the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand, there is the possibility that the bronze final victory over Argentina in October was the 32-year-old’s final Test for England.

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Jacques Nienaber on evolution and why he left international rugby

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Jacques Nienaber on evolution and why he left international rugby

Former Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has given his first Leinster press conference and at it spoke about how big a role family played in his decision to leave Test rugby. He also spoke about evolution and how it will take a while to get things right at Leinster.

When asked on Thursday if Farrell will play for England again, Borthwick replied: “I’m really hopeful he does. We are all hopeful Owen will return to the England team at some point soon, but that’s going to be a decision Owen makes.

“Owen and I spoke right at the end of the World Cup. We were actually in Paris. We took a walk and he shared some of his thoughts and what he was thinking at that point in time.

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“Then he took a period of reflecting and we met a couple of weeks later and he told me of his decision to step away. He expressed some of his feelings, which is clearly a confidential conversation.

“The first thing I will say there is I’m full of admiration for this guy – as a man, a player and a leader. It takes a lot of courage to do what he has done. I made it really clear there is no pressure on him, that it is his decision to be made at the time that is right for him.”

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Borthwick is dismayed by the number and viciousness of online trolls at the World Cup, insisting the vitriol Farrell faced mirrors the growing mistreatment of some high-profile figures in the game.

Farrell was caught in the eye of the storm following his red card for a dangerous tackle against Wales in August, a decision that was overturned and then reinstated in reaction to a public outcry.

Meanwhile, referees Wayne Barnes and Tom Foley have spoken of the influence online abuse had on their recent decisions to retire after the World Cup.

“In England alone, we have seen a player – a captain – and two match officials step away at the top of their game because of certain issues,” Borthwick said.

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“There are societal issues that are going on here. The online hate that is spread is not OK, it’s not right. For people to have to endure that, their families to have to endure that, to drive people out of the game, is just appalling.

“I don’t have the answers to it but I do know it is wrong and they are not true rugby fans that are saying this stuff. None of us expected what happened at that World Cup in that area, or for it to be at that level of vitriol against certain people and certain teams.”

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A new England captain will be appointed later this month with Jamie George, George Ford and Ellis Genge leading candidates, but Borthwick ruled out an approach to Courtney Lawes.

Lawes announced his international retirement at the end of the World Cup but has been in superb form for Northampton so far this season. “Courtney has been playing really well but he was pretty clear to me about his step,” Borthwick said.

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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