England captain Owen Farrell is taking a break from international rugby “to prioritise his and his family’s mental well-being,” club side Saracens announced on Wednesday.
The club said that Farrell will miss next year’s Six Nations but will continue to play for and captain Saracens.
The 32-year-old led England to a third-place finish at the Rugby World Cup last month and became his country’s record points scorer during the tournament, passing Jonny Wilkinson’s tally of 1,179.
He was also the top scorer at the World Cup with 75 points.
“Everyone at England Rugby is fully behind Owen’s decision,” England head coach Steve Borthwick said in a statement.
“Since making his debut, he has been an integral part of the England set up for over a decade and the demands on elite athletes are extremely challenging. He is an exemplary player, captain and leader and always gives his all for his country.
“It is with typical courage that Owen has made this decision to open up in this manner. Together with all of us at England Rugby, I will do everything I can to ensure that he has the support he requires going forward.”
Farrell was banned for the first two games of England’s World Cup campaign having been sent off in a warm-up game for a dangerous tackle. The incident became a flashpoint ahead of the tournament after the red card and a subsequent ban were rescinded and then reinstated.
At the time, Farrell’s father, Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, criticized the “absolutely disgusting” response to the disciplinary process from the wider rugby community, while Borthwick criticized the “personal attacks” directed towards the fly-half.
During the tournament itself, Farrell commented on online abuse directed at England teammate Tom Curry, saying that it “seems to be going more and more like this.”
He told reporters ahead of England’s bronze-medal match against Argentina: “You’re dealing with people. You’re dealing with human beings. Just because you’re saying stuff on your phone or behind a computer screen, it doesn’t make it acceptable. It seems to be going more and more this way, and I don’t think it’s acceptable.”
Farrell has arguably been England’s standout player of the past decade, ever since he made his international debut in 2012. He has gone on make 112 appearances for England at fly-half and center and has been the captain of the team since 2019.