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Rugby Union: Steve Borthwick gives Owen Farrell update amid uncertain England future

Owen Farrell’s future with England remains uncertain after Steve Borthwick revealed he has been given no indication by his captain that he plans to return.

Farrell will miss at least the Six Nations in order to prioritise his and his family’s mental wellbeing following last autumn’s World Cup in France, during which the Saracens fly-half was repeatedly booed by supporters at games.

With Farrell also likely to be unavailable for the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand, there is the possibility that the bronze final victory over Argentina in November was the 32-year-old’s final Test for England.

When asked if Farrell will play for England again, Borthwick replied: “I’m really hopeful he does.

“We are all hopeful Owen will return to the England team at some point soon, but that’s going to be a decision Owen makes.

“Owen and I spoke right at the end of the World Cup. We were actually in Paris. We took a walk and he shared some of his thoughts and what he was thinking at that point in time.

“Then he took a period of reflecting and we met a couple of weeks later and he told me of his decision to step away. He expressed some of his feelings, which is clearly a confidential conversation.

“The first thing I’ll say there is I’m full of admiration for this guy – as a man, a player and a leader. It takes a lot of courage to do what he’s done.

“I made it really clear there’s no pressure on him, that it’s his decision to be made at the time that’s right for him.”

Borthwick is dismayed by the number and viciousness of online trolls at the World Cup, insisting the vitriol Farrell faced mirrors the growing mistreatment of some high profile figures in the game.

Farrell was caught in the eye of the storm following his red card for a dangerous tackle against Wales in August, a decision that was overturned and then reinstated in reaction to a public outcry.

Meanwhile, referees Wayne Barnes and Tom Foley have spoken of the influence online abuse had on their recent decisions to retire after the World Cup.

“In England alone we’ve seen a player – a captain – and two match officials step away at the top of their game because of certain issues,” Borthwick said.

“There are societal issues that are going on here. The online hate that is spread is not OK, it’s not right.

“For people to have to endure that, their families to have to endure that, to drive people out of the game, is just appalling.

“I don’t have the answers to it but I do know it’s wrong and they’re not true rugby fans that are saying this stuff.

“None of us expected what happened at that World Cup in that area, or for it to be at that level of vitriol against certain people and certain teams.”

A new England captain will be appointed later this month with Jamie George, George Ford and Ellis Genge leading candidates, but Borthwick ruled out an approach to Courtney Lawes.

Lawes announced his international retirement at the end of the World Cup but has been in superb form for Northampton so far this season.

“Courtney’s been playing really well but he was pretty clear to me about his step,” Borthwick said.

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