English players overseas to be shunned by RFU from 2011

jonny wilkinson
(Photo: David Howlett)

jonny wilkinson

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has announced that players choosing to play abroad will not be picked for England after the 2011 World Cup.

Three members of the current Elite England squad -Jonny Wilkinson, Tom Palmer and James Haskell -currently play in France.

Wilkinson, England’s highest-ever points scorer who missed the Autumn internationals through injury, plays for Toulon.

Meanwhile Palmer, who started all four Tests and  Haskell who started one,  ply their trade at Parisian club Stade Francais.

Danny Cipriani has recently moved to Australia to play in the Super 15 and Sale Sharks prop Andrew Sheridan is rumoured to be joining Wilkinson at Toulon next season.

The RFU are trying to stem the flow of talent away from England by warning players they risk  jeopardising  their international careers. Chief executive John Steele announced that the RFU would only select those playing in foreign leagues “in exceptional circumstances”.

Steele has written a letter to players and their agents outling the risk they would be taking by choosing to leave the Aviva Premiership and its timing aims to give enough warning to players before any contract negotiations begin in January.

“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,” he wrote.

“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.

“I would stress that this is not a change to our selection policy itself, players remain entirely free to play outside England should they so wish, but you need to understand that it is our absolute intention that we only select from overseas clubs in exceptional circumstances.

“It is for you and your agent to decide if you are willing to take that risk.”

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