Today’s rugby news as new England captain identified after ‘brave’ Farrell decision and Welsh Premiership match called off early

Ashton: Farrell most resilient person I know

Other senior England players should step up in Owen Farrell’s absence, according to Chris Ashton, who referred to Owen Farrell as “the most resilient person” he knows.

Rugby was taken aback on Wednesday afternoon when Farrell declared he will not be playing for his country in the 2024 Six Nations, opting instead to retire from international rugby for the time being. The choice was made to “prioritize his and his family’s mental well-being.”

After several on-field confrontations and disciplinary difficulties over the previous couple of years, Farrell has been the target of intense social media vitriol. Like no other, his England performances have also been closely examined. The legendary Lawrence Dallaglio of England denounced the’sickening’ abuse he had been subjected to following the news.

“Among the most tenacious and mentally strong people I have ever met is Owen Farrell. Ashton stated in The Telegraph, “If he is willing to give up playing rugby internationally, it shows the strain he must have been under as England captain.”

Ashton thinks Ellis Genge might be the next player to don the captain’s armband during the Six Nations. “We are not blessed with many captains who know how to press everyone’s buttons like Owen does,” he continued. Ellis Genge should be next in line, in my opinion, as Courtney Lawes is retiring. He can establish the emotional intensity just like Owen can, and he gets along well at work with Steve from Leicester.

“Steve also believes in Jamie George and George Ford as players because they both have strong leadership qualities. There will be a lot more responsibility required of all those older players who are still in place.

“In the long run, I sincerely hope that everyone benefits from this. Steve will be able to observe how other players handle that leadership role. Hopefully, Owen returns even more rejuvenated, and who knows? Maybe people will come to value him as a captain and player.”

Luther Burrell, a former teammate of Farrell’s for England, has commended the Saracens fly-half for making the decision to leave Test rugby. To be honest with you, it did come as quite a surprise, as stated by Burrell, the former Northampton Saint who played alongside Farrell for England, in an interview with Sky Sports. But now that I think about it, it does make sense.

“A player of Owen Farrell’s class and leadership ability, to do this act of courage shows true bravery, and a true testament of his character. But when you look deeper into it, you can almost understand why it’s come to this point. He was bombarded with scrutiny, 60,000 fans were booing him in Marseille. Rugby players, we’re not robots, we do have emotions, and I think sometimes that is forgotten.

“He has come under such scrutiny in the past decade, and had his game analysed by people behind their keyboards, so I’m not too surprised it’s come to this. I’m just disheartened this is the way he’s seeing his time away from international duty. If any player has earned a sabbatical, it’s someone like Owen.

“My thoughts and cares really go out to him and his family. It has to be a watershed moment.”

Indigo Premiership match called off early

This weekend’s Indigo Premiership match between RGC and Pontypool has had to be postponed owing to Pooler being unable to field a front row for the game.

The Pontypool front row is a famous institution in Welsh rugby, of course, but the club wrote in a statement they were “frustrated” to announce that the trip up to Colwyn Bay had to be called off due to the volume of players in that specialist position being unable to play. They await the outcome of any further sanction.

“Pontypool RFC are frustrated to announce that the scheduled Indigo Premiership match against RGC this coming Saturday afternoon has had to be postponed,” the Gwent club wrote on social media.

“Concurrent injuries and unavailability of a number of specialist front row players mean that they are unavailable for selection for the game. Therefore, after consultation with the WRU, the game has had to be postponed on health and safety grounds. The club would like to acknowledge the disruption this will cause to travel plans for those fans due to travel north with the team this weekend.

“Clearly, having to postpone a scheduled game is not something the club would ever wish to do in anything other than exceptional & unavoidable circumstances. We await the outcome of discussions between the WRU & RGC as to any sanctions or rearrangement of the fixture forthcoming.”

RGC replied by writing: “We’re extremely disappointed that this weekend’s proposed fixture against @PontypoolRFC has had to be postponed as they are unable to field a front row. A new date for the fixture will be announced in due course.”

Pontypool are currently third in the table with 11 matches having been played. RGC are 10th, but have two games in hand.

Lawes: I’m done with England

Despite his insistence that he is “done” with England, Courtney Lawes says he would take a summons from the Lions in 2025 if chosen.

The back row player announced his retirement from the England team following his 105th cap, which resulted in a 16–15 World Cup semi-final loss to South Africa. He did not play in England’s victory over Argentina in the third-place play-off.

The 34-year-old has not made up his mind over his future with the Northampton Saints; nevertheless, if the Lions were to call him in 2025, he would be the first to respond to an SOS call.

Lawes responded, “Yeah, I would definitely do that if I got another call from the Lions.” Since it’s in Australia and two years away, I would most definitely take them [his family] along for the entire journey. However, who knows? I might not be playing rugby then. We’ll watch to see what transpires.”

But Lawes says he wants to be there for his four kids, so he wouldn’t wear the England shirt again. Lawes said, “No, I am done, to be honest,” in response to the question of whether he would come out of retirement for England. I quit competing internationally because I had to be here for my family, not because I felt I couldn’t play or make the squad.

“My desire to be there for my children has not altered. Though it hasn’t changed, I am aware that the back row may have. Normally, I am a part of the back-row crises, so it is my luck that we have one when I am truly fit. I’ve put the old boots away.

“My spouse, as usual, performed a fantastic job. We had to put all hands on deck because they are eight, ten, and our twins are almost six. I have to stay put and make sure I raise them correctly.

Saints ‘desperate’ to keep Ludlam

Northampton rugby director Phil Dowson says Saints are “desperate” to keep captain Lewis Ludlam at the club. World Cup squad member Ludlam has been strongly linked to joining England’s playing exodus abroad.

Toulon, a Top 14 team, is reportedly paying close attention to Ludlam, who is presently out due to injury.

old Harlequins center Joe Marchant has joined Stade Francais, Toulouse’s Jack Willis is at Toulouse, while Henry Arundell transferred to Racing 92 following the World Cup. Ludlam’s old Saints teammate David Ribbans is already with Toulon.

Players who practice their trade outside of England are not eligible for selection for the national team under current Rugby Football Union regulations.

But in Arundell’s situation, having joined Racing 92 after London Irish’s collapse, he might be ready for the Six Nations later this season.

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