Owen Farrell has told how tackling mental health together as a team helped England reach the Rugby World Cup final.
Farrell revealed that since becoming Red Rose captain he had gone from bottling up his innermost feelings to sharing them with team mates “and feeling better for it”.
He said sharing concerns rather than battling demons alone had benefited the whole squad, who came within 80 minutes of becoming world champions and now lead the Six Nations with a game to play.
“The group is very good at not holding back; not being afraid to tell people that we’re a bit nervous – anything really – getting things out there,” said Farrell.
“The build-up to a Test can be a long week and everyone has got their own thoughts, so we always have a chat the night before (a game). Just players.
“The main thing for us is to speak what we’re thinking. And if that’s something that makes you a bit more vulnerable then that’s good, because if you’re thinking it, I’d probably think a few more are as well.
“So to put it out there and to understand it and to come up with a solution together is obviously a miles stronger way of doing it.”
Farrell opened up to Rio Ferdinand as part of the Heads Up campaign, which aims to use the power and influence of football to change the conversation on mental health.
Ferdinand expressed amazement, saying that had one of his team mates bared his soul the night before a cup final they would have been looked upon almost as a “weak link”.
Farrell, who had a trial with Man United when he was a 13-year-old goalkeeper, reveals little of himself in public. But behind closed doors, in the camp run by England boss Eddie Jones, he is very different.
He said: “I’ve gone from someone who keeps it in – ‘no, I don’t want to admit things, I don’t want to show anything, I don’t want to give anything away’ – to telling everybody everything.
“Like a lot of things it’s never as good or as bad as you think it is. Having people to speak to about that goes a long way to accepting things I think.
“Who do I lean on for mental support? Family would be a big one. I try to have people away from the environment that I’m in.
“The big thing for me with that type of stuff is not waiting for it to go wrong before you then go and seek people’s opinions.”