Owen Farrell could have played his last game for England after French club Racing 92 confirmed that he will join them next season.
The Saracens fly-half and captain will link up with the Parisians from July 1 on a two-year deal.
It will bring to an end his long and successful Saracens career that began in 2008 and has been littered with European and Premiership titles.
Farrell, 32, had already announced that he would miss this season’s Guinness Six Nations in order to prioritise his and his family’s mental well-being.
And he will become ineligible for international selection when he moves to France due to Rugby Football Union rules that do not permit players who ply their trade abroad to be selected for the national team.
Le Racing 92 officialise la signature d’Owen FARRELL au sein de son équipe professionnelle masculine.
— Racing 92 (@racing92) January 22, 2024
His last England appearance was the World Cup bronze medal match against Argentina in Paris on October 27, which England won narrowly.
Racing are coached by Stuart Lancaster, who gave Farrell his Test debut in 2012 when he was England boss.
Farrell has gone on to win 112 caps, lead his country in the last two World Cup campaigns and is England’s record international points-scorer.
He would be 34 if he leaves Racing after two years and returns to England, suggesting any international return would be unlikely.
Farrell, though, would be on the British and Irish Lions’ radar for their 2025 Australia tour, which will see his father Andy fill the role of head coach.
A statement from Racing read: “Racing 92 formalises the signing of Owen Farrell within its professional men’s team.
“The English international player is committed to two sporting seasons and will join the Ciel et Blanc squad from July 1, 2024.”
Farrell will link up with the likes of South Africa’s double World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi at Racing, along with exciting England back Henry Arundell.
Speaking after he announced his Six Nations squad last Wednesday, England head coach Steve Borthwick said: “I think what’s important is that Owen makes a decision that is right for Owen and his family.
“Will a player of Owen’s calibre be missed if he chooses to play outside of England? Yes, of course.
England captain Owen Farrell will take a break from international rugby to prioritise his and his family's mental well-being
Owen has the full support of everyone at England Rugby 🌹
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 29, 2023
“Do I want him in some point in the future to come back? Yes. But I also want him to do what’s right for him and his family and have the experiences and the memories that he wants to make.”
Farrell’s decision will be a major blow for Saracens, although Racing’s announcement will not have caught them on the hop as Saracens rugby director Mark McCall recently revealed that he knew what decision Farrell had made.
Farrell apart, a number of players who were key to Saracens’ sustained European and Premiership successes over the past 10 years are unlikely to be involved after this summer.
Some will be out of contract and departing, and others retiring, and McCall said last week: “Everybody realises the adventure we’ve been on is coming to an end, and there is a new adventure about to start with a group of younger players we are incredibly excited about who have signed up for the longer term.
“Players are going to retire or they are in the twilight of their careers – it is just the cycle of a team.
“I suppose all good things come to an end, and there is a re-energising effect and impact of a new group.
“We have met with the players who we believe will grab hold of it over the next three or four years. We have met with them regularly over the past couple of months.
“There is a new dawn coming, and it is exciting for everybody.”
Saracens have lost five of their last eight games and slipped outside the Premiership top four.
But they recovered from a record 55-15 European defeat against Bordeaux-Begles to book an Investec Champions Cup round-of-16 place by beating Lyon on Saturday.