Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Shameful and not right – Saracens boss condemns Owen Farrell treatment

Owen Farrell is taking a break from Test rugby to prioritise his mental health (David Davies/PA)
Owen Farrell is taking a break from Test rugby to prioritise his mental health (David Davies/PA)

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 rugby.

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.

Farrell has long been a lightning 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.

“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.”

Owen Farrell is England's leading record points scorer after lifting his total to 1,237 at the World Cup
Owen Farrell is England’s record points scorer after lifting his total to 1,237 at the World Cup (David Davies/PA)

Farrell’s decision to step away from the Test arena comes after referee Wayne Barnes, who oversaw the World Cup final, announced his retirement with a reference to the online abuse he has faced.

Barnes’ family have also been targeted and McCall believes the game should address the attitude towards some of its leading figures.

“Rugby probably needs to do something,” McCall said.

“This is a wake-up call for all concerned because 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.

“It wasn’t the emotional toll of playing a lot that created this – it was something completely different.

“Down the years he has been made to feel that he has done something much worse than he has done. Every single thing that 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 England captains have faced the level of scrutiny that he has.

“Very rarely is it positive and we’re talking about someone who is a model professional, who cares deeply about what he does and who he does it with.”

Farrell has thrown himself into club rugby since his return from the World Cup and McCall revealed that “he said that he was glad he did that”.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall (Richard Sellers/PA)

But when – and if – England’s leading points scorer and veteran of 112 caps returns is unknown.

“Owen’s happiness and well-being are paramount. If that, in time, involves returning to the international fold then so be it,” McCall said.

“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.”