Johnson backs Armitage stance

Date published: May 13 2015

Martin Johnson has become the latest former England player to back the RFU's policy on overseas players ahead of the World Cup.

The former England skipper and manager was in charge of England at the last World Cup, and was the man at the helm when the policy on selecting overseas players was brought into place.

Unlike his successor Stuart Lancaster, Johnson chose to use the 'exceptional circumstances' clause, selecting Jonny Wilkinson at the last World Cup, however since Wilkinson, overseas players have been ignored.

There have been an increasing number of calls for Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon, the 2014 and 2015 European Players of the Year, to be included in the World Cup squad, but Johnson believes both should be omitted unless they return to England.

"Ultimately guys know the rules. If they want to come and play for England they’d be an England player," Prudential RideLondon 100 participant Johnson said. 

"Whether it’s exceptional circumstances or not it doesn’t matter. They knew the situation. If they wanted to put themselves in a situation to play for England – like all the guys in England are doing – then come over and play here. It’s as simple as that.

"When I was doing the England job we had guys go before the rule was in there. It created issues, let’s be honest,” Johnson added. “It created issues for us, it created a lot of issues for the players at times and was difficult. I can understand on a number of levels why the rule is there. Rightly or wrongly, disagree with it or not. If you’re a player and you want to play for England you know what to do.

"The No1 criteria for any rugby player playing for any rugby team anywhere in the world is you desperately want to come and play. If you desperately want to come and play, then you could’ve got yourself over here for this year to get yourself in a World Cup.

"I loved playing club rugby. Winning European Cups is fantastic and it’s a big part of what you do but ultimately if you’re good enough you want to have the best opportunity to play for your country and play in the biggest games of all, which are Test matches and World Cups.

"If you don’t get yourself in England, rightly or wrongly, you’re not going to get the chance. If they really wanted to come and play, they’d be here doing it."