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Farrell to miss ABs tour amid serious doubts over return

Gavin Mairs

England captain Owen Farrell could miss up to a year with England following his decision to step away from the Six Nations to prioritise his and his family’s mental wellbeing.

England are scheduled to play Japan and two tests against New Zealand in July and it is understood it is almost certain the 32-year-old will not be involved.

There are also serious doubts over the likelihood of a return for next year’s November series, which includes tests against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

Farrell is thought to have been reassuring friends he is fundamentally OK but has made up his mind to prioritise his family for this next stage of his career.

In taking what Mark McCall, his director of rugby at Saracens, described as “a courageous and brave decision to open up”, the former England captain is thought to feel that something needs to be done to ensure others don’t go through what he has endured.

“His happiness and wellbeing is paramount,” McCall said.

“If that, in time, involves returning to the international fold then so be it. He has nothing to prove. All those caps, being captain, wasn’t enough for some people.

“If he wants to go back after a break and it’s something that he enjoys and loves, then good for him. If he doesn’t want to in six, eight months’ time then we’ll support that, too.

“Certainly, I didn’t try to persuade him to change his decision – and I’m pretty sure that [England coach] Steve Borthwick didn’t, either.

“I can’t tell you why he feels the way he feels. His happiness – and his family’s – is the most important thing going forward. And he’ll have the club’s full support going forward as always.

“We need to make sure that we’re checking in all the time with him. Like Steve [Borthwick] said yesterday, it was courageous and brave of him to open up. I admire Owen for many reasons anyway, but even more for doing this.

“The person that is portrayed and has been portrayed from time to time in the media down the years is not the person that I recognise.

“There’s only so much that someone can take.

“It’s remarkable that he played the way he played during the World Cup, if we take into account how he’s feeling.

“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.”

McCall said he felt anger at the way his captain – who has won 112 caps for England, led his country to the last two World Cups and won four test caps for the British and Irish Lions – had been treated.

Coming just a week after referee Wayne Barnes revealed he had received death threats during the World Cup in France and his family had also been targeted, McCall said it should act as a wake-up call for rugby.

“Rugby probably needs to do something. “There’s no way that a referee should face what Wayne faced and there’s no way that a player – a person – like Owen should have to face what he faced, over a longer period of time.”

[Owen] Farrell is thought to have been reassuring friends he is fundamentally OK.





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