Owen Farrell leaves door open to England return

Owen Farrell who expressed a desire to play rugby for as long as possible as he left the door open to a potential England return and featuring in the 2025 British and Irish Lions tour
Farrell will join Racing 92 next season – precluding him from England selection - PA Wire/Adam Davy

Owen Farrell has not ruled out a possible return for England despite admitting that at times the booing from supporters during the World Cup in France last year had been tough to take.

The 32-year-old decided to step back from the international stage in November to “prioritise his and his family’s mental wellbeing” and his move to Top 14 side Racing 92 next season will ensure he is not available for Steve Borthwick’s side for the next two seasons.

However, the former England captain, refreshed from a two-month break, insists he still has plenty he wants to achieve as a player. He cut an upbeat figure at Saracens’ training base near St Albans on Wednesday, for his first press conference since the World Cup last October.

And when asked about the possibility of a Test return – which could include representing the British and Irish Lions in Australia next year – said he would depend how he felt down the line.

“I’ve stepped back and there’s obviously a change happening next year,” said Farrell, who has won 112 caps for England. “Then we’ll see. There’s no point in saying anything now because I don’t know how I’m going to feel later down the line. We’ll see.

“Everyone has been really supportive. Everyone has been understanding. All they have done is offer support. When I sat down and spoke to people here [Saracens] and spoke to Steve and said my reasons for making the decision, they were really supportive.”

A move back to England could see Farrell become available again in time for the 2027 World Cup in Australia and Mark McCall, Saracens director of rugby, claimed the former captain had the drive to extend his international career if he chose to.

“There are very few players who can, and I think he is one of them,” said McCall. “But you have got to have the drive to do that, you have got to have the competitive spirit to do that. I think he has that. He can keep going for as long as that drive, and competitive spirit is there.”

What is clear is that the break has clearly done him good. Farrell is set to make his 250th appearance for Saracens in the Premiership match against Harlequins at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday.

Owen Farrell of Saracens looks on during the Investec Champions Cup match between Saracens and Lyon at StoneX Stadium on January 20, 2024 in Barnet, England
Farrell will make is 250th Saracens appearance this weekend - Getty Images/Henry Browne

He spent time in Ireland during his break, to watch his 12 year-old brother Gabriel play a club match for Old Belvedere, and also watched England from the stands at Twickenham when Borthwick’s side defeated an Ireland team coached by Farrell’s father Andy, in the Six Nations.

Asked if the experience left him wanting to be out there again, he added: “You sit there and watch any massive game like that and wish you wanted to be involved but I am happy with the decision at the moment.

“Not to say that is not going to be up and down, and that it is not going to change at any point but you try and do it for the right reasons. I think I have done that. But when there is a big game on – you watch New Zealand versus South Africa you want to be involved in that – I sat there itching watching it a little bit, as I have done at home. But I am pretty happy.”

‘The World Cup was difficult at times’

Having the time to watch his younger brother play, and take in Ireland’s victory over Italy in Dublin in February, gave him the time to reflect on his decision to step back from the spotlight of the Test arena.

“You go through a range of emotions at that time,” he added. “On the whole I have felt good. I was trying to do stuff that I wanted to for a long time and never had the chance. That would be one of them.”

The break has also allowed Farrell to refocus on why he loves the game, admitting the booing during the World Cup had at times left him wondering why, having done right by his team and country.

“At times, yeah, I guess so, but it only comes back to what I’ve been trying to do the whole time, which is to do my best, do my best for people around me, and for myself,” he said. “So that’s the constant that stays throughout that.

“Obviously the World Cup was difficult at times but again, I really enjoyed the playing side of it and being involved. I was just trying to get back to enjoying myself, trying to get back to enjoying my rugby, trying to get back to loving what I’m doing. I’m working to do that.

Addressing his decision to step back from England, Farrell added: “I was just trying to make sure that I was doing the right thing by us as a family, by myself. Everything else that was going on, I can’t control that. That’s not up to me.

“I’m not the most outgoing on social media, I’m not the most outspoken in general, unless it be about rugby normally. So I guess I’ve never been one to give too much of myself, and I don’t expect people to know what I’m like, I guess, how I am as a person.

“So, I guess, when it does get personal, to listen to that would be silly on my part. I was just trying to do the right thing by us and me.”

‘No decisions to be made about Lions’

His move to France would not preclude him from selection for the Lions next year but it is not a subject he has yet raised with his father, Andy, who will be the head coach for the tour of Australia.

“Have I spoken to my dad about it?” he added. “I’ve told him ‘well done’, if that counts [referring to Ireland’s Six Nations title win].

“There’s nothing to talk about – whatever happens, happens. There are no decisions to be made about any of that. When it gets closer to the time, I guess things become clear or they don’t. You see how people are at that time. There is nothing to talk about there at the minute.”

British & Irish Lions' assistant coach Andy Farrell (right) and Owen Farrelol
There is a chance Farrell could be selected to represent the Lions in 2025 under father, Andy - PA Archive/David Davies

His immediate focus is on Saracens and the club’s bid to rekindle their Premiership title bid as well as go deep into the Champions Cup, and working under former England head coach Stuart Lancaster at Racing could lead to more silverware and perhaps inspire an international return.

“Do you think I am winding down?” he added, with a smile. “I want to play for as long as I possibly can as long as I am enjoying it. I love playing. That’s always been the case, even during the tougher bits as I’ve spoken about. I loved the game, and I loved the rugby.

“I want to enjoy all of it a bit more. I’ve been getting back to doing it here at the club, I’ve done that over this time during the Six Nations, and I want to really do that towards the end of the year. And then I want to get better at it next year as well. That’s how I think I am going to get the best out of myself and play my best. We’ll see what happens.”

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