Bristol Bears utility back Max Malins said the abuse directed at his England and former Saracens team-mate Owen Farrell is “shocking” and “ridiculous” but backed him to bounce back from it.
Farrell will not be in action in the upcoming Six Nations after opting to take a break from the international game to prioritise his and his family’s mental health.
“It has probably come as a surprise to many, but good on him,” said Malins. “I think he is unfairly treated in the media and from fans.
“We are all human beings. For someone to take such a battering over a period of time it is going to take its toll at some point, so good on him.”
Farrell was in fine form at the recent Rugby World Cup in France and guided the Red Rose to a third-place finish at the global showpiece. However, his preparations for the tournament were disrupted when he was sent off in a World Cup warm-up game against Wales.
Despite leading with a shoulder to the head in a tackle on Wales back-row Taine Basham, Farrell was cleared by an independent disciplinary panel after his offence and that decision led to a huge outcry.
World Rugby subsequently appealed that decision, and Farrell was suspended for four matches which included England’s first two World Cup fixtures against Argentina and Japan.
Farrell’s father – Ireland head coach Andy Farrell – called the media coverage of the incident “a circus”, while the younger Farrell received plenty of criticism on social media and at times during England’s World Cup campaign he was booed by sections of the crowd at games.
Malins, who was part of England’s World Cup with Farrell, added: “I think it’s shocking, to be honest.
“I was up in the stands when the teams were getting read out, and I heard that (booing). It was a big surprise to me. I really don’t get it.
“For what he has done for England Rugby – he is one of the greatest players to wear that shirt – and for some fans to treat him like that is ridiculous.
“You won’t find many people with a mentally tougher approach than Owen, so for him to feel like this is the step he needs to take is worrying in a sense, but also very brave and good of him to do so.”
Fully focused on Saracens
Farrell’s will now focus solely on Saracens’ domestic and European campaigns this season.
“I have no doubt that this is a reset and refresh for him,” added Malins.
“This season, there is no club rugby being played during the Six Nations, so it would be good for him to actually take a proper break away from the game and essentially reset.
“I have no doubt that the competitor he is, the leader and player he is, he will 100 per cent bounce back from this and come back as good as he was.”