Owen Farrell’s mental health decision ‘a watershed moment’, says Warren Gatland

England's fly-half Owen Farrell reacts after scoring a penalty during their Rugby World Cup Pool D match against Samoa

England's fly-half Owen Farrell reacts after scoring a penalty during their Rugby World Cup Pool D match against Samoa. Photo: Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP

Published Dec 1, 2023


Wales boss Warren Gatland believes England captain Owen Farrell's decision to step away from international rugby is a wake-up call to the abuse suffered by players and their families.

Farrell will not be available for the 2024 Six Nations to "prioritise his and his family's mental wellbeing".

The 32-year-old led England to a third-place finish at the recent World Cup.

However, he was booed at times during the tournament in France and came under fire on social media after being sent-off in a warm-up game against Wales, which resulted in a four-match ban.

Gatland has selected Farrell for three British and Irish Lions tours and believes his standing in the game will help draw attention to the problem.

"In many ways Owen's decision represents a watershed moment for the game," Gatland told the Daily Telegraph.

"It is a sad day for rugby and a sad day for sport to see someone of Owen's standing in the game have to make the decision to walk away from the international stage just to protect his family.

"But, ironically in making his decision, it might be the best thing for the game in that it will highlight some of the terrible things that are happening in rugby, particularly on the social media front.

"Given what Owen has achieved in the game, he probably doesn't realise, but I think it will have a positive impact and make people sit up and make a stand."

Gatland said he had been sheltered from abuse by not being on social media, but that he has been targeted by someone who managed to get a hold of his telephone number.

The 60-year-old also revealed he was affected after seeing abuse sent to his son, Bryn Gatland, after he missed a kick at goal when playing for Auckland Blues.

"Ultimately the rugby community cares about people and I think it is time for the vast majority of us who are disgusted about what is happening to stand up for each other a bit more," he added.

"If you see something online that is out of order, shoot it down."


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