RFU want stars in England

England have made it clear they will seek to only select players based in their own country after the 2011 World Cup. [more]

RFU want stars in England

England have made it clear they will seek to only select players based in their own country after the 2011 World Cup.

The Rugby Football Union has written to players officially stating their intentions to pick players playing their domestic rugby in England following next year’s global gathering in New Zealand.

A number of high-profile England players have moved to France in recent seasons, with three members of the current first-team squad plying their trade in the Top 14 at the moment.

Double Lions tourist Jonny Wilkinson and Stade Francais duo Tom Palmer and James Haskell are currently in the Elite Player squad despite playing their rugby overseas, while 2009 Lion Riki Flutey spent a year in France before returning to London Wasps this season.

Former England regular Paul Sackey is currently playing his rugby alongside Wilkinson in Toulon, while 2005 and 2009 Test Lion Andrew Sheridan has been linked with a big-money move to France when his Sale Sharks contract runs out next summer.

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"It is our absolute intention we only select from overseas clubs in exceptional circumstances," RFU chief executive John Steele, who insisted it was not a change in selection policy from England, wrote in his letter to the players.

"As things stand today we have a number of elite players in various squads and clubs outside England, principally in France, and you may be considering that as your next career move.

"If that is the case then I wanted to let you know that it is our view that we are best served by having our England Elite Player Squad (EPS) and our England-Qualified Players (EQPs) all playing in England at English clubs.

"We feel that enables our whole elite department, including team management and coaches, as well as our technical, medical and sports science teams, to work more closely with EPS players to ensure that you are supported in the right way.

"We further believe this is easier to achieve working with the Premiership and Championship clubs with whom we have excellent relationships at all levels.

"So I would like to confirm that it is our strong intent, from the end of Rugby World Cup 2011 through the RWC 2015 cycle, to select our Elite Player Squads at all levels entirely from players playing at English clubs where at all possible."

Those sentiments were echoed by England’s director of elite rugby Rob Andrew, who believes keeping the country’s best talent in England will be of benefit to the individual players and the England team as a whole.

"We've obviously got a very detailed relationship with the English clubs which we think helps our relationship with the clubs and the international career of our England players,2 Andrew told BBC Radio Five Live this morning.

"Post-2011 we've got a long lead-up to the 2015 World Cup. We've got a lot of very talented young English players coming through the system and we really feel that we want to keep them playing in England, both for our clubs and also for the England team.

"Generally speaking, New Zealand and Australia have always said they won't pick players who go and play overseas. If players want to play for their country they have to go back to Australia and New Zealand. South Africa have played around with it, sometimes they have had a policy and sometimes they haven't.

"We're not saying players can't go – it's a free world. It's about saying to them 'we think in the long run we can help protect your international career if you stay and play for our English clubs'.

"We have said in exceptional circumstances we will look at it, clearly. We're 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."

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