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Welsh rugby bosses tell fans not to abuse media after online trolling

Welsh rugby bosses tell their fans not to abuse media or rival players after online trolls left pitchside interviewer Sonja McLaughlan in tears with ‘toxic’ abuse over her questions to captains after Wales beat England

  • Welsh Rugby Union issued statement telling fans ‘this has to stop’ today   
  • Sonja McLaughlan criticised for her interview with England captain Owen Farrell
  • She questioned the skipper following England’s shock 40-23 defeat to Wales
  • Reporter later took to Twitter to reveal she had been tagged in abusive messages

Welsh rugby bosses have told their fans not to abuse the media after online trolls left pitchside interviewer Sonja McLaughlan in tears with ‘toxic’ abuse. 

The Welsh Rugby Union issued a statement today telling fans ‘this has to stop’ after Ms McLaughlan questioned Welsh captain Alun Wyn Jones about his thoughts on the referee. 

The statement read: ‘We are hugely disappointed and saddened by the social media abuse directed at opposition players and members of the media following the game at the weekend. 

‘As a rugby community these individuals have let us all down. 

‘This has to stop. It is not acceptable.’  

McLaughlan also interviewed England captain Owen Farrell in the aftermath of England’s shock 40-24 defeat against Wales on Saturday during which she questioned him about some of the refereeing decisions that had angered the squad.

But she later took to Twitter to reveal she had been tagged in abusive messages on social media for reportedly grilling the captain. 

The BBC, the Rugby Football Union and the Six Nations have since come out in support of the experienced and well-respected reporter. 


Sonja McLaughlan (left and right) interviewed Farrell in the aftermath of England’s shock 40-24 defeat against Wales on Saturday during which she questioned him about some of the refereeing decisions which had angered the squad

Following the match, McLaughlan had questioned England captain Owen Farrell and head coach Eddie Jones as well as their opposite numbers – Alun Wyn Jones and Wayne Pivac.

But just hours later she revealed she had been left in tears by online abuse.

She tweeted: ‘Toxic, embarrassing, disgraceful, appalling. Just some of the feedback I’ve had. Thanks for using @ sign so it’s all hit home… 

Sonja McLaughlan’s post-game interview 

McLaughlan: Owen, were England robbed by some poor officiating today?

Farrell: That’s not for us to talk about. We got our way back into it in that second half..there’s plenty that we can do better

McLaughlan: You were furious at Pascal Gauzere, you were having a long chat with him, when he’d clearly told you – talk to your team about the penalty counts..do you think England could have been more alert in that moment?

Farrell: I’d have to look back at it. I don’t know from where I was stood at that moment in time

McLaughlan: What were you trying to say to the referee? You clearly felt you had a case

Farrell: Look, there’s no point in us talking about it now. That’s for everyone else to talk about, we’ll focus on what we can control.

McLaughlan: Knock on or no knock on it was another controversial moment

Farrell: We will control what we will control

McLaughlan: What you clearly couldn’t control was England’s penalty count how much do you feel that you shot yourself in the foot in the end there

Farrell: Yeah it was an issue for us and it’s something were going to have to look at, because I thought the effort was good today, the intent was good today. But we can’t let teams off that many times like we did today

McLaughlan: Can you explain why a side of England’s experience, a player like Maro Itoje in particular, the penalty count doesn’t look good for him..why they can’t just stay cool in that moment?

Farrell: It’s the whole teams’ job to make sure that they’re in the game, that we’re looking after each other, we’re all on the same page and we’ll look at how we can do that better

‘Now imagine getting inundated with abuse for doing your job. In my car crying. Hope you’re happy.’ 

Other players got involved to show their support for Ms McLaughlan. 

English rugby union player David Flatman said: ‘Some pretty ordinary people on here Sonj. 

‘You did precisely what you are paid to do. If they don’t like it, ho hum. 

‘Your employers like it, and these trolls don’t pay your mortgage. x’

BBC sport’s commentator Eleanor Oldroyd wrote: ‘Sonj – you are brilliant and we love you. 

‘Mute and report the losers carry on doing your job like the top journalist you are x’

And ex-rugby star Scott Hastings said: ‘Don’t let them get to you. 

‘Hopefully you got back safely!’  

Earlier today the BBC, the Rugby Football Union and the Six Nations all offered messages of support and denounced the abuse that she had been subjected to.

‘BBC Sport strongly condemns the online abuse experienced by Sonja McLaughlan after the Wales v England match,’ read a statement from the broadcaster.

‘Sonja has long been a key member of our Six Nations team and she absolutely has our full support.’ 

The RFU replied to McLaughlan’s initial tweet with a post that read: ‘Sonja, we are really sorry to hear this and hope you are OK. 

‘Abuse for doing your job is not OK and we stand with you. 

‘We will see you for the next one. 

‘Hold your head high and know you have our support.

‘Rugby’s core values are Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline and Sportsmanship. 

‘Whether we are fans, players, coaches, referees, volunteers or in the media we are all part of the rugby community. 

‘We should all aim to hold ourselves to these values of our great game.’

The Six Nations also added a comment: ‘Sonja, we join with the rest of the rugby community to say that this is not OK. 

‘Respect is a value of rugby we hold in the highest regard. 

‘Abuse of public figures or members of the media on social media or anywhere else is not acceptable.’

Much of the abuse was in relation to lines of questioning over Wales’s first two tries which were seen as highly contentious decisions.    

During the interview, McLaughlan had asked Farrell whether England were ‘robbed by poor officiating’.

Farrell responded by saying: ‘That’s not for us to talk about. We got back into it in the second half and didn’t quite finish it off. There’s plenty that we can do better.’ 

Rugby players and fellow journalists spoke out in support of Ms McLaughlan on Twitter 

Following the match, McLaughlan had questioned England captain Owen Farrell (pictured) and head coach Eddie Jones as well as their opposite numbers – Alun Wyn Jones and Wayne Pivac 

McLaughlan later took to Twitter to reveal she had been tagged in abusive messages on social media for reportedly grilling the captain

The RFU replied to McLaughlan’s initial tweet with a post that began: ‘Sonja, we are really sorry to hear this and hope you are OK’

The Six Nations also added a comment: ‘Sonja, we join with the rest of the rugby community to say that this is not OK’

McLaughlan proceeded to ask Farrell if England should have been more switched on in the build-up to Josh Adams scoring a try.

Farrell replied by saying: ‘I’d have to look back at it. I don’t know from where I was stood at that moment in time.’ 

Subsequently, Farrell was asked what he had said to the referee Pascal Gauzere, but the England captain refused to be drawn on the incident. 

McLaughlan also asked Farrell about the discipline of his team-mate Maro Itoje. 

McLaughlan was also inundated support from fellow famous faces including former England international Ugo Monye. 

He tweeted: ‘You shouldn’t apologise for doing your job & done your job superbly well for a long time. Twitter can often be an awful beast.’

TalkSPORT presenter Adrian Durham wrote: ‘The Farrell interview was literally the best post match interview I’ve ever heard in my life. I’m not joking. It was needed, it was brave, it was brilliant. Hope you’re OK.’

During the interview, McLaughlan had asked Farrell (pictured) whether England were ‘robbed by poor officiating’ 

McLaughlan was also inundated support from fellow famous faces including former England international Ugo Monye, TalkSPORT presenter Adrian Durham, BBC presenter Dan Walker and Sky Sports presenter Kelly Cates

‘Well this is awful! Sonj, u are SO good at your job,’ BBC presenter Dan Walker added.

‘Over the years I have used you as an example to many wannabe sports journalists.’

Sky Sports presenter Kelly Cates also condemned the abuse McLaughlan received before offering reassuring words on Twitter.

‘Sending lots and lots of love,’ Cates tweeted in response to McLaughlan’s initial post. 

‘Easy to say not to worry about the b******* but that’s hard to do. I just hope you’re also now seeing all the compliments from the people who know what they’re talking about and think you are great.’ 

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