Steve Borthwick said Owen Farrell had been subjected to “personal attacks” as the England captain was again forced to face the possibility of missing the start of the World Cup.
Flyhalf Farrell could be up before another disciplinary panel as soon as next week, after World Rugby announced on Thursday it would appeal against the decision to overturn his red card for a head-high tackle on Taine Basham in England’s 19-17 warm-up win over Wales at Twickenham last weekend.
Borthwick had wanted – and was free – to select Farrell, 31, for the warm-up game with Ireland, the world’s top-ranked team, in Dublin on Saturday.
But such was the disruption Farrell had suffered, former England captain Borthwick left him out his match-day 23 entirely, with George Ford now starting at 10 instead.
Ireland coach Andy Farrell slammed much of the commentary surrounding son Owen by saying “the circus that’s gone on, in and around all of this, is absolutely disgusting, in my opinion, disgusting”.
Borthwick was not as blunt, but his feelings were clear.
“Unfortunately, given the disruption to his week and the intrusion in terms of his preparation, I made the decision to pull him out of the team that he would otherwise have led this weekend,” he said after announcing his team. “The situation is one I find really disappointing.”
“The commentary around it seems to move from issues around the tackle to personal attacks on the character of the man, which I think is just wrong.”
“Owen has handled himself through this process in a really respectful manner.”
Borthwick, clearly surprised at Farrell’s case being re-opened, added: “One of the most experienced and senior panels that deal with these matters dealt with it on Tuesday. We thought it was the conclusion.
“Now, another panel is being convened to try and find some holes in what was done on Tuesday. Again, we will conduct ourselves in a manner that respects the process.
“The final two weeks of our World Cup preparation are going to be disrupted by this matter.”
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: Geoff Caddick/AFP