England are enlisting retired stars such as Chris Ashton and Jonny May to help young players deal with the type of scrutiny that has compelled Owen Farrell to take a break from international rugby.
Farrell is missing the Guinness Six Nations to prioritise his and his family’s mental well-being following the World Cup and it’s build-up, during which he was heavily criticised online for being sent off for a dangerous tackle against Wales.
The Saracens fly-half may have already played his final game for England as he considers a move to Racing 92, which would make him ineligible for Test selection.
Aware of the demands on his players, especially emerging talent such as Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Oscar Beard and Fin Smith, head coach Steve Borthwick is keen to ensure they are properly supported.
“The environment we create around the players is vital. It’s vital in any team but especially the England team,” Borthwick.
“The England team, as we all respect, has more scrutiny upon it than any other national team in world rugby.
“That’s the nature of it so creating an environment where the players are supported and cared for is really important.
“We have looked at it and are exploring how we improve that from where we were to where we are now to try and get ahead of the societal element.
“The way we work and intensity with which we work is going to be a level up so off the field I think it needs to be incredibly enjoyable.
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“They need to be able to have fun and spend time with each other, relaxing with each other so that this is an environment where you get better and you improve, and it’s fun and it’s enjoyable to be around.
“We will have that and there will be the mentors that we have within the squad – the senior guys, the guys that have had many caps.
“And there are the people from outside the squad that always offer their support to help in any way, shape or form that they can.
“Chris Ashton has offered support to help in any way he can with any of the young wingers. And Jonny May has offered his support to help the young ones. That’s really important to us.”