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Owen Farrell’s mental-health break is just the start, says England teammate Kyle Sinckler

Saracens annouced last week that Farrell would take a break from international rugby during the Six Nations

Harry Latham-Coyle
Monday 04 December 2023 11:58 GMT
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Kyle Sinckler (right) believes other players will follow Owen Farrell’s lead
Kyle Sinckler (right) believes other players will follow Owen Farrell’s lead (Getty Images)

England prop Kyle Sinckler believes more players will follow Owen Farrell’s lead and take a break from international rugby.

Saracens announced last week that the England captain would not feature in next year’s Six Nations “to prioritise his and his family’s well-being”.

Mark McCall, Farrell’s long-time coach at club level, subsequently criticised both the mainstream and social media for creating an “unfair narrative” about the fly half, who became England’s record points scorer during the Rugby World Cup.

Highlighting the demands that a packed schedule places on them, Bristol Bears front-rower Sinckler suggested that more could be done to support international players.

And the 30-year-old “wouldn’t be surprised” if others opt for a period out of Test rugby.

““If I’m being honest it’s only the beginning,” Sinckler told BBC Radio 5 Live after Bristol’s Premiership win over Gloucester. “If you look at the workload the players go through, especially the international players, guys have been in [World Cup] camp for five months, get a week’s rest, and then come back in and playing week-in and week-out.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to be honest [if more players did the same]. Definitely it is a privilege to play for your country and it comes with a lot of responsibility, but I think the support system around that could be a lot better.

“At the end of the day, as a player you kind of have to take the rough with the smooth. The same people that will be saying to you one minute that you are not doing so well, are the same people when it is going well are singing your praises.

“The main thing is having the support system in place because only the players who have been through it, and who are in it, actually understand the pressure that goes with performing week-in, week-out.”

Farrell is just 15 appearances short of Ben Youngs’ record as England’s most-capped male player.

Owen Farrell will miss the 2024 Six Nations (PA)

The 32-year-old will continue to play for Saracens during his period out of the England squad, and is in line to return from injury in the club’s Investec Champions Cup opener against the Bulls on Saturday in Pretoria.

The six-time Premiership winner is one of rugby’s most prominent players and has often been a lightning rod for criticism when England have struggled.

Sinckler hopes that Farrell’s break from the game will help the fly half.

“Professional sport is a pressure cooker, but obviously when you’re playing for England it’s even more heightened, and when you are playing for England in a World Cup even more, and then when you are the captain, and the fly-half, even more so,” Sinckler explained.

“So I am surprised but not surprised. I will say it is funny to see all the support Owen is getting, but in the same breath those people are the ones who have said certain things about him in the media. So it is quite funny to sit back and see it play out.

Owen Farrell is set to return from a minor injury for Saracens next weekend (Getty Images)

“In terms of Owen, he has got to do what is best for him. He’s an experienced man, he’s got a family, and at the end of the day your health is the number one priority.

“Knowing Faz, I’ve got a massive amount of respect for him, I’ve been playing with him for the last eight, nine, ten years and for him to actually say ‘look, I’m not right’ then something must be up because that guy will go to battle no matter what.

“At the end of the day he has to do what is best for him. On a personal note, I back him and hopefully he gets the help he needs and the rest he deserves.”

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