Imagine Rugby Blogs

RFU tells players it's England or no selection

Elite players encouraged to stay in English league

Posted Dec 03, 2010 by Jeff Dawson

Jonny Wilkinson

It’s been reported that the Rugby Football Union has written to players to say England intend to only select players who play for domestic clubs following the World Cup in New Zealand in 2011.That means that three members of the current England squad – Jonny Wilkinson, Tom Palmer and James Haskell – who play overseas would no longer be in line for a call-up to the national squad.RFU chief executive John Steele said: “Players will be entirely free to play outside England should they so wish. It is our absolute intention we only select from overseas clubs in exceptional circumstances.”Steele also said it was not a change in selection policy from England, who have always maintained their preference for players to stay in the country.This is a brave stand from the RFU. Like football, the English league is one of the best, if not the best, league in the world. It is full of quality and entertainment but by restricting player participation at international level based on where they ply their trade is a risky business.One  thing people have to understand about professional sportsman, especially in sports such as rugby, their careers are short and financially they need to make sure their futures are secure. Sometimes there is a need to go abroad to get a better contract or simply because they have achieved all they can domestically.By saying to players they won’t be picked unless they play in England, they are essentially saying that they have to maintain their high level of play for the same club and that at times is difficult.Rob Andrew, the RFU’s director of elite rugby added: “Clearly we are not going to cut off our nose to spite our face, but we don’t want an exodus of our best young players going across to play in France because it will cause us difficulties from an England point of view. It is really about saying to them that in the long run we can help protect your international careers if you stay and play for our English clubs.”Other English players currently playing abroad are Paul Sackey and Dean Schofield at Toulon and Magnus Lund at Biarritz, while Danny Cipriani has joined Australian club Melbourne Rebels.I’m not sure that this policy is correct but the RFU obviously feel it’s the best way to go and they have the interests of England’s national rugby team at heart.

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