Wales wing George North has revealed the extent of social media abuse aimed at international rugby union players in an eye-opening account.
Captain Alun Wyn Jones came under fire on social media after England prop Joe Marler, who was subsequently banned for 10 weeks, grabbed Jones’ genitals during last Saturday’s Six Nations clash at Twickenham.
And wing North, who has scored 40 tries for Wales during a glittering 95-cap career, has often been a target, even surrounding the concussion issues he has experienced during recent years.
“To be honest, that social media stuff, it’s a nightmare,” said North.
“It’s a great platform, to be so accessible to fans and vice versa, to sponsors and players alike.
“But the flipside is hard. Someone like Alun Wyn, he gives so much every day and people can just send him something that is not true because they have misread it.
“It wears down on you. He has got a young family and he doesn’t need that when he goes home.
“No one in their right mind would ever say it to his face. I don’t understand why he is getting the abuse he is if I am brutally honest.
“If you look at the situation he was put in (at Twickenham), I thought he dealt with it extremely well.
“It is easy enough when you are on a keyboard to say what you want. If they were to come into the environment, see the preparation we are doing, the lengths we go to – not just physically, but mentally – I would hope they would think differently about what they say and do.
“You put yourself in the shop window, you expect to have some of it, but when it is unjust or without any real knowledge or information behind it, it does drain hard.”
North has praised the Welsh Rugby Union’s work in helping them deal with social media negatives.
He added: “The union are looking after the boys in a great way and try to turn a negative situation into a positive and have a laugh and a joke about it.
“They (trolls) only see that game on a Saturday where they think they could have done better if they hadn’t blown their knee out when they were 12, they would have played for Wales, obviously.”
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North failed a head injury assessment during Wales’ defeat against France three weeks ago.
It was the latest such episode to affect him during his career, although it was his first head-related matter since 2016.
“Even walking around the supermarket, I get told I should retire,” he said.
“People comment without ever seeing me, treating me, knowing my symptoms, my history. People pluck the ones from 2015 and 2016 like it was yesterday, and the story goes round again.
“I take care of myself, I go to see a specialist and keep an eye on what I am doing. The general consensus with concussion is that we are in a much better place, but you put the social media fire in there and it goes through the roof.
“Weirdly (being on the pitch) it is the happiest place. There are no distractions, you are just doing your job. That is where you were playing when you were six or seven years old.
“Sometimes, I do think I will just can it (social media) and become a nomad.
“I have logged out a few times, for like a week or two weeks, and I have actually really enjoyed it. It has been quite nice not to know what is going on, not to be told you are rubbish.
“The majority of people are really good. They interact, they want to know what you are doing, they want to know positivity.”