LONDON (Reuters) -England captain Owen Farrell will sit out the 2024 Six Nations and take an indefinite break from international rugby in order to prioritise his mental health, but will continue to play for Premiership club Saracens, England Rugby said on Wednesday.
Flyhalf Farrell led his country to third place at the recent World Cup in France, but was the subject of boos from his own fans on several occasions during the tournament.
Last week he expressed his desire to keep playing "as long as I can" when asked about the 2027 World Cup.
"I’m unbelievably lucky to do something that I’m really passionate about. I don’t see that changing any time soon," he added.
The 32-year-old Farrell, son of Ireland coach Andy, finished as the leading scorer at the World Cup with 75 points, and put on a masterful display in England's 16-15 loss to eventual champions South Africa in the semi-finals.
"Everyone at England Rugby is fully behind Owen’s decision," England coach Steve Borthwick said.
"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."
Saracens confirmed that Farrell will continue to play for them.
"As always, Owen will have the full support of everyone at the club," they said in a statement.
Farrell was suspended and criticised on social media ahead of the World Cup following a red card for a dangerous tackle in a warm-up fixture against Wales, which led to him missing England's first two games against Argentina and Japan.
The card was first rescinded by an independent disciplinary committee, before an appeal from World Rugby against the decision resulted in a four-game ban.
Father Andy described the social media vilification of his son as "disgusting" and a "circus".
Owen Farrell has played 112 tests for England and six for the British & Irish Lions since making his international debut in 2012.
He is third on England's all-time list behind Ben Youngs (127) and Jason Leonard (114). He is England's leading points-scorer in tests with 1,237.
(Reporting by Nick Said,Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ed Osmond)