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Owen Farrell: The England captain will miss the 2024 Six Nations to prioritize mental health

Owen Farrell: The England captain will miss the 2024 Six Nations to prioritize mental health

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Owen Farrell captained England in the World Cup finals in September and October, in which they lost to South Africa in the semi-finals.

England captain Owen Farrell has made himself unavailable for the 2024 Six Nations Championship “in order to prioritize his mental well-being and his family”.

His club Saracens said Farrell “has decided to take a break from international rugby” and “will have the full support of everyone at the club”.

The 32-year-old will continue to play for and captain Saracens.

“Everyone at England Rugby fully supports Owen’s decision,” England coach Steve Borthwick said.

“Since making his debut, he has been an integral part of the England national team for over a decade, and the demands on his elite athletes are hugely challenging.

“He is an exemplary player, leader and leader who always gives everything he has for his country.

“It is with exemplary courage that Owen has made this decision to open up in this way. Along with all of us at England Rugby, I will do everything I can to ensure he gets the support he needs moving forward.”

England begin their Six Nations campaign on February 3 in Italy and finish with a match in France on March 16.

Farrell, who succeeded Dylan Hartley as England captain under Eddie Jones in 2019, became the country's all-time top scorer during last month's World Cup, surpassing Jonny Wilkinson's career tally of 1,179 points from a penalty kick against Samoa in the Group D match.

The fly-half and center moved into second place on the all-time international points-scoring list behind New Zealand's Dan Carter, who had 1,598 points, by the end of the competition.

He has retained his role as captain since 2019 but was forced to miss England's first two World Cup matches after being suspended for a dangerous tackle during a friendly win over Wales in August.

England reached the semi-finals of the tournament in France before losing to South Africa.

The Saracens playmaker, who made his international debut in 2012 and has 112 caps, was also on the losing side to the Springboks when he led England to the 2019 World Cup final in Japan.

BBC Sport rugby correspondent Chris Jones

After a troubled build-up to the Rugby World Cup, with him suspended for England's first two matches, Farrell ended the tournament by reminding everyone of his enduring qualities as a rugby player, breaking Jonny Wilkinson's record for points and captaincy. Along with a commendable third place.

However, whether it was due to his steely personality or his aggressive behavior on the pitch, Farrell has often borne the brunt of scorn from certain sections of the public, especially outside England.

From the outside, it looked as if this had not affected him, and his form at the World Cup and since his return to Saracens did not suggest he was struggling. But with a young family and an ambition to continue playing into his 30s, Farrell made the brave decision to move away from England in the short term. A sobering reminder that beneath the surface even the most mentally stable and resilient athletes can be vulnerable.

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