England and Bristol prop Kyle Sinckler has expressed his belief that more players might follow in the footsteps of England’s record points-scorer, Owen Farrell, and take a break from international rugby to prioritise mental well-being.
Farrell recently announced that he would be sitting out the 2024 Six Nations to focus on his and his family’s mental health, shedding light on the pressures that players face.
Sinckler, who boasts 68 caps, emphasised the immense workload international players endure, especially after extended periods in World Cup camps.
Speaking on BBC 5 live, the front-rower said, “Guys have been in [World Cup] camp for five months, get a week’s rest, and then come back in and are playing week-in and week-out.”
The physical and mental toll, according to Sinckler, could potentially lead to more players opting for breaks from international duties.
“If I’m being honest, it’s only the beginning,” he said.
While acknowledging the privilege of playing for one’s country, Sinckler called for increased support from the game’s authorities to help players cope with the demands of representing England.
He asserted that the existing support system could be significantly improved. “Definitely, it is a privilege to play for your country, and it comes with a lot of responsibility, but I think the support system around that could be a lot better,” Sinckler said.
The Bristol prop highlighted the pressures players face not just in matches but also during training, emphasising the need for a robust support system.
He underscored that only those who have experienced the pressure firsthand truly understand the challenges of performing week in and week out.
Sinckler’s comments come amidst a broader discussion about the mental well-being of athletes, particularly in high-pressure environments like international rugby.
He emphasised that the support system should extend beyond the fans, stating, “I don’t think it has anything to do with the fans; I just think the support for the players, in general, could be a lot better.”
Reflecting on Farrell’s decision, Sinckler expressed a mix of surprise and understanding, acknowledging the intense pressures faced by players in professional sports, especially when representing their country.
He stressed the importance of prioritising mental health and backed Farrell’s decision to step back for his well-being.
“Professional sport is a pressure cooker, but obviously when you’re playing for England, it’s even more heightened, and when you are playing for England in a World Cup even more, and then when you are the captain, and the fly-half, even more so,” he said.
“So I am surprised but not surprised. I will say it is funny to see all the support Owen is getting, but in the same breath, those people are the ones who have said certain things about him in the media. So it is quite funny to sit back and see it play out.
“In terms of Owen, he has got to do what is best for him. He’s an experienced man, he’s got a family, and at the end of the day, your health is the number one priority.
“Knowing Faz, I’ve got a massive amount of respect for him. I’ve been playing with him for the last eight, nine, ten years and for him to actually say, ‘look, I’m not right,’ then something must be up because that guy will go to battle no matter what.
“At the end of the day he has to do what is best for him. On a personal note, I back him, and hopefully he gets the help he needs and the rest he deserves.”