‘I think the abuse has taken its toll’

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Joined: Nov 2016

Brian O’Driscoll believes the scrutiny and “abuse” that Owen Farrell has faced of late is behind his reported move to Racing 92 in the summer.

Farrell, England’s leading points-scorer, has been linked with a switch to the French Top 14 side, which would bring an end to more than 15 years at Saracens and make him ineligible for international selection.

The fly-half led England to a third-place finish at last year’s Rugby World Cup after missing the first two games through suspension following his dangerous tackle on Wales’ Taine Basham in a warm-up fixture.

His red card was initially downgraded to yellow by an independent panel before it was reinstated at the end of a World Rugby appeal, a saga which saw him hit the headlines in the run-up to the sport’s showpiece event.

Former England coach Stuart Lancaster is at the helm at Racing and TNT Sports pundit O’Driscoll thinks that, and the chance to “escape” the intense media scrutiny that he faces in the UK, is behind his reported desire to take on a new challenge.

“Stuart Lancaster, if it is Racing 92, obviously they’ve got unfinished business,” O’Driscoll said on TNT Sports. “[It] didn’t quite work out in 2015 maybe the way he would have hoped and we all know how Stuart has gone on with Leinster and had a good bit of success and really developed as a coach.

“He’s got young kids, maybe he just needs a break away from it. Not that he wants to re-find love for the game but reading between the lines, I think the abuse that he’s taken over the course of the last 18 months has really taken its toll.

“Maybe it feels as though it’s an opportunity to escape that for a while, live in another city and have a great time with his with his young family.

“The other thing as well as this one doesn’t feel like it’s as financially motivated move. He’s paid very well here in the UK and does well internationally.

“What he’s going to make over there won’t be significantly higher than what he makes here you wouldn’t imagine, comparatively to other players that can go and double their salary over in France.

“So this one feels as though it might be more of a move that will work out for him and his family and from a rugby point of view just to change things up.”

England and Loughborough Lightning’s Emily Scarratt echoed O’Driscoll’s sentiments and said the addition of Farrell could help Racing, who are currently first in the Top 14, land their first piece of silverware since they lifted the Investec Champions Cup in 2020.

“He’s a proven winner of big trophies,” Scarratt said. “Obviously the premiership with Saracens and European titles with Saracens, so not just the quality of player that he is but the experience that he will bring in those clutch moments, in those weeks leading into semi-finals and finals and everything that he can bring, provided you can learn the language pretty quickly.”

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