England to continue overseas ban

Date published: September 17 2015

English players based overseas will continue to be shunned by the national team for at least the next eight years according to reports.

The Telegraph have revealed that the new agreement between the RFU and Premiership Rugby over player release will include an extension to the current selection policy which states that overseas players can only be selected in exceptional circumstances, through the next two World Cups.

The performances of Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon, the last two European Players of the Year, had led to calls for England pick players in France, however this new agreement would appear to put paid to that happening.

England have refrained from selecting overseas players under Stuart Lancaster, and even dropped Toby Flood when he announced he was heading to Toulouse. David Strettle also pulled out of England's preliminary World Cup squad after agreeing a move to Clermont.

Manu Tuilagi, Danny Cipriani and Dylan Hartley have all been linked with moves to the Top 14 in the past season, with this decision designed to keep England's best players in the Premiership.

According to Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty it is a decision taken both by the clubs and the union and is optimistic the World Cup will show the right decision has been taken.

"Everyone and their dog has had their say about it and that no doubt will continue and, ultimately, we will have to prove that it does produce those benefits and we don’t lose anything at the top," McCafferty told the Telegraph.

"Stuart [Lancaster] has been hugely supportive of it – he always has been – but it is a joint policy. Nobody is doing it against anybody’s will in terms of the partnership between England, the RFU and ourselves. 

"It provides the strength in depth, which we are all looking for in England, but we will have to keep commercially competitive on all fronts to make sure players want to stay here as well.

"The professional players are becoming more valuable, we are developing more and better of them and we have to make sure as many as possible want to stay and play their top level rugby in England. Then the whole system works.

"There will always be one or two players who have chosen a different route and that is their right and there will be a media clamour every now and again for them but, in the end, we have to ensure that more and better players are produced through this system and then that will quieten down.

"If England do win there, there will be a whole new class of sporting heroes born," he added. 

"Given that we have got all 31 of those players playing in the league, you would have to assume that five or six of those as a result of England winning the World Cup would become immediate sporting gods and of interest to a far greater audience than we currently have."