But she then received a torrent of personal abuse online, accusing her of being biased. The BBC yesterday joined sports presenters and England Rugby in defending their reporter, saying she was a “key member” of their team.
A spokesman said: “We strongly condemn the online abuse experienced by Sonja after the Wales v England match. Sonja has long been a key member of our Six Nations team and she absolutely has our full support.”
It followed Miss McLaughlan’s comments on Twitter after the game: “Toxic, embarrassing, disgraceful, appalling. Just some of the feedback I’ve had. Thanks for using @ sign so it’s all hit home. Now imagine getting inundated with abuse for doing your job. In my car crying. Hope you’re happy.”
She had asked Farrell whether England were “robbed by poor officiating”.
England were angered by the referee’s decision to allow Wales to take a quick penalty after he had ordered Farrell to gather his team to warn them about their discipline, meaning they were all out of position when the kick was taken.
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.”
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: “I’d have to look back at it. I don’t know from where I was stood at that moment in time.”
After hearing of the online abuse, England Rugby said on social media: “Sonja, we are really sorry to hear this and hope you are okay.
“Abuse for doing your job is not okayand 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.”
Sky Sports presenter Kelly Cates also condemned the abuse on Twitter before adding: “Sending lots and lots of love. 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.”
The Six Nations also defended McLaughlan, saying in a message on their official Twitter account: “Sonja, we join with the rest of the rugby community to say that this is not okay.
“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.”
Such abuse is one reason why the Daily Express is leading a campaign to combat trolls.
Our Unmask The Online Trolls campaign wants to make the internet safe and abuse free by denying people anonymity when they are using social media.
The forthcoming Online Harms Bill threatens fines of up to £18million for companies that fail to tackle offensive content.
Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird has backed the campaign and said people could be allowed to post under pseudonyms, so long as their details are held by the sites.