Saracens coach hits out at ‘shameful’ abuse after Owen Farrell announcement

The England captain announced this week that he would take a break from Test rugby during the Six Nations

Harry Latham-Coyle
Thursday 30 November 2023 15:19 GMT
<p>Owen Farrell will take a break from international rugby during the Six Nations </p>

Owen Farrell will take a break from international rugby during the Six Nations

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall has hit out at the abuse and criticism that has forced Owen Farrell to take a break from international rugby.

The club announced on Wednesday that Farrell would be taking a break from England duty and miss next year’s Six Nations “to priorise his and his family’s mental wellbeing”. The fly half will remain available for his club.

Farrell described the abuse that teammate Tom Curry and his family had received during the Rugby World Cup as “unacceptable”, while match officials Wayne Barnes and Tom Foley have recently revealed that they received threats after overseeing the final of the tournament.

Suggesting an “unfair narrative” had been created around the England captain, an emotional McCall said that he hoped that Farrell’s decision and the testimony of others would serve as a “wake-up call”.

“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,” McCall explained. “He’s a family man, they’ve always come first.

“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.

Mark McCall (left) has coached Owen Farrell for 15 years

“For me, this began in the mainstream media - not from everybody - and the narrative that was created around Owen. And then there was a pile-on on social media.

“There are some in the media industry who need to look at themselves. Down the years he has been made to feel that he has done something much worse than he has done.

“Every single thing has been picked up on and scrutinised - that doesn’t happen with other players. You might say‘he’s the England captain, but I’m not sure that other England captains have faced the level of scrutiny that he has.

“Very rarely is it positive. We’re talking about someone who is a model professional, who cares deeply about what he does and who he does it with. He has been portrayed in a way that doesn’t fit the person that people close to him know. We’ve ended up where we’ve ended up. There has been an unfair narrative and I don’t know why.”

McCall confirmed that Farrell could feature in Saturday’s Premiership fixture against Northampton Saints if he overcomes a knock.

The fly half has steered Saracens to three wins in three starts since returning from a World Cup at which he became his country’s leading points scorer.

Owen Farrell led England to a third place finish at the World Cup

Farrell starred in the quarter-final win over Fiji and almost led England to a shock semi-final win over South Africa as Steve Borthwick’s side fell one point short.

McCall believes that it is “remarkable” that the 32-year-old was able to perform so well at the tournament.

“There’s only so much that someone can take,” the Saracens director of rugby stressed. “It’s remarkable that he played the way he played during the World Cup, if we take into account how he was 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. He does [get the credit he deserves] from some and he definitely doesn’t from others.

“I can’t tell you why he feels the way he feels. Certainly, his happiness - and his family’s - are the most important thing going forward. And he’ll have the club’s full support going forward, as always.”

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