Owen Farrell said he still felt the sting of social media abuse during the Rugby World Cup, even though he deleted his accounts during the tournament.

Former England captain Farrell was the target of critics during the World Cup and announced at the end of November he would step back from international rugby to protect his and his family’s mental health.

Speaking publicly for the first time since making that announcement, ahead of his club Saracens’ Gallagher Premiership match against Harlequins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday, the fly-half stated he tries not to pay attention to social media comments, but is still aware of it.

“I don’t really try to look too much into it and obviously it’s hard to get away from nowadays,” Farrell said.

England's Owen Farrell (right) looks dejected during the Rugby World Cup semi-final against South Africa
Farrell stepped back from international rugby following England’s World Cup campaign

“You kind of feel it at times, but you’d be wrong to entertain it too much because anyone’s opinion I respect or anyone who I think of or anyone I know, to be honest, I wouldn’t see them going into comments sections and writing stuff.

“My thoughts would be why would I think about it too much? But you do get a sense of it. I deleted social media for the whole of the World Cup. You still feel it’s there, but the one thing that stays constant is you try to be your best.”

The criticism Farrell faced during the World Cup, which saw England reach the semi-finals before being edged out by eventual champions South Africa, was not limited to social media.

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England boss Steve Borthwick said he admired captain Farrell for his decision to step away from international rugby

It included him being booed by some England fans when his name was read out ahead of the quarter-final win over Fiji, although he put his decision to step back from the national team down to a variety of reasons.

“The World Cup was difficult at times, but I really enjoyed the playing side of it and the being involved side,” Farrell said. “I was trying to get back to enjoying my rugby, loving what I’m doing, and I’m enjoying it now.

“It’s never one thing why you come to a decision. Normally it’s a lot of things which come together which make those decisions.

“I thought it would be best for me and my family, there’s a change happening next year off the back of it. I’ve done that because I think it will be good for me and I hope that will give me the space to get back to enjoying what I’m doing.”

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Former England head coach Stuart Lancaster said Farrell is excited by his new challenge in France having agreed to join his old coach at Racing 92

Farrell will be ineligible to play for England until summer 2026 at least after agreeing to join French club Racing 92 when his contract with Saracens expires at the end of the current Premiership campaign.

The 32-year-old does not know whether he may yet pull on an England shirt again once his deal with Racing concludes, but is excited by the prospect of a new opportunity after being part of Sarries’ squad since making his debut in 2008.

“When you come to the end of your contract and there’s a World Cup, people see what your future plans are and I’d never really entertained anything before,” Farrell said. “But it was the first time us as a family thought it might be good for us to go and experience something different.

“I was open and honest with the people here [at Saracens] as early as I could be, and there was no decision made at that time but I was just laying out what I was thinking and how I was feeling.

“Everybody here was really supportive. This place is not easy to leave, it’s been my home for as long as I can remember, I’ve got a lot of good friends here and been here for 14 years or so. It wasn’t an easy decision, but hopefully a good one for us in the long run.”


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