Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall has criticised the “shameful” treatment of Owen Farrell in what he believes should be a wake-up call for the game.
Farrell will miss the Six Nations after deciding to take a break from international rugby in order to “prioritise his and his family’s mental well-being”, although he will continue to play club ruby.
The unexpected decision comes after the 32-year-old fly-half led England to a third-place finish in the recent World Cup after losing to champions South Africa by a point in the semi-final.
England captain Owen Farrell will take a break from international rugby to prioritise his and his family's mental well-being
Owen has the full support of everyone at England Rugby 🌹
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 29, 2023
Farrell has long been a lightening rod figure in the sport, but the condemnation peaked in August when he was sent off for a dangerous tackle against Wales, a decision that was overturned by a disciplinary hearing only to then incur a ban on appeal.
England’s captain was frequently booed in France, sometimes with his family present in the stadium, and McCall is impressed that he delivered a series of strong performances despite shouldering a heavy burden.
“It’s remarkable that he played the way he played during the World Cup, if we take into account how he was feeling,” McCall said.
“He is a person who is right on top of his game at the moment, yet he and his family have been made to feel the way they feel. It is shameful. It’s not right.
Any other country he would be rightly treated a national hero. To hear fans booing their own captain, never mind the online abuse, is shameful. 😞💔 https://t.co/Cl8IPlQZEy
— Kyran Bracken (@KyranBracken) November 30, 2023
“I’ve worked with Owen for 15 years, every day, and the person that has been portrayed in the media bears no resemblance to the person I know. He’s a family man, they’ve always come first.
“There was a narrative created and started and that’s been there for quite some time. There’s only so much that someone can take.
“On top of that, he’s a brilliant, caring, supportive team-mate and a loyal friend to many. And a very good, decent human being. That’s the person I know.
“It was courageous and brave of him to open up. I admire Owen for many reasons anyway, but even more for doing this.
“I’m not worried about Europe or the club at all. I’m worried about Owen. We want him to be OK and happy. Clearly he hasn’t been.”