Eddie Jones: I hope Owen Farrell rediscovers love of rugby – booing him is sad

Eddie Jones talks closely with Owen Farrell - Eddie Jones: I hope Owen Farrell rediscovers love of rugby – booing him is sad
Eddie Jones and Owen Farrell had a good relationship - Getty Images/Adrian Dennis

Eddie Jones says he hopes former England captain Owen Farrell rediscovers the “love of the game” when he moves to Racing 92 in France next season.

Farrell announced he was stepping back from international rugby after the World Cup in France last November, to protect his and his family’s mental health after the pressure of international captaincy, including being booed by his own fans, became overbearing.

The 32-year-old has also brought to an end a 17-year association with Saracens by signing for the French Top 14 side, saying in February that “the time feels right to try something different”.

Jones told Telegraph Sport he was saddened by Farrell’s decision but hoped a move to France could reignite his passion for the sport and potentially lead to a return to the international scene.

“I think it is sad that he feels like that for such a tough, unrelenting player,” said Jones, who will coach Japan against England in the opening Test of the summer tour in front of what is expected to be a crowd of over 65,000 at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

“I was speaking to someone about his performance for Saracens against Bath recently and he said Farrell was just out of this world in the last 20 minutes. Owen’s done that for over 100 Tests for England and look how many trophies he has won for Saracens.

“He is one of the game’s most acclaimed players and yet he feels like he has to change his career. Look, he is 32 now and if he wants to do something different by his own volition, then that is great. But when you think he has done it because of all the abuse he has suffered in the game, I think that is sad, but that is the society we live in. That can’t be right.

“The booing became contagious. People start booing and they don’t really know what they are booing about. They just think: ‘This is a good idea, let’s boo.’”

Jones: Farrell has probably lost a little love of the game

The Australian, who has returned to the international coaching scene with Japan after resigning from the Wallabies job after their disappointing World Cup campaign, appointed Farrell as national captain in 2018 and coached him for seven years while he was England head coach.

“You would have to say Owen in the last 15 years of rugby has been one of the toughest, most uncompromising players to have played the game,” he said. “And it wasn’t his fault the suspension [for his red card against Wales last August which sparked public furore] was light – it wasn’t his decision, it was just him playing the game.

“We shared a few text messages and I just hope for the rest of his career he finds the love of the game again. All it shows is that he has probably lost a little love of the game, and you can understand why. I think at Racing he will get the love of the game back and it will only be purely about playing. I really hope he does get that back.

“If he enjoys the experience and then does want to come back and play [internationally], then come back and play. But if not, continue doing what he loves doing.”

Steve Borthwick, the England head coach, must choose between George Ford, Marcus Smith and Fin Smith for his starting fly-half for the summer tour, which also includes two Tests against New Zealand in July.

Jones, who had Borthwick on his coaching team with Japan and England, is certain who will start against his side.

“Knowing Steve reasonably well, I have a pretty good idea George Ford might be playing,” added Jones. “George, particularly his organisational skills, you could see could come through in the World Cup and he had initiated the attack as well and did that really well.

“Marcus, if he wants to play Test rugby, has to go back to his club and not change his game but add to it, like what Richie Mo’unga has done at New Zealand. He was a pretty useful fly-half at the World Cup at the age of 28 but it took him 50-odd Tests to get there. Marcus just needs to get clear in his head: ‘What do I need to add to my game to be a Test certainty’?

“I think Fin Smith looks like a Test 10. He has a strong kicking game, he can run enough and challenge the line enough when he needs to, he has a reasonably good short passing game and looks like he might have the goods going forward.”