Lancaster defiant on overseas policy

Date published: May 20 2015

England head coach Stuart Lancaster clarified why Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon hadn't been selected for the World Cup at Wednesday's preliminary squad announcement.

Armitage and Abendanon are the last two players to win the European Player of the Year award, plying their trade in the Top 14 with Toulon and Clermont respectively.

The exclusion of Armitage has been a prominent issue for Lancaster to tackle during his time in charge, but the England head coach was adamant that maintaining the policy of not selecting overseas-based players was the right one.

"The policy was put in place to protect the national team along with the long-term health of the English game and it's one I've consistenly supported," said Lancaster.

"It's supported by the clubs and the RPA and it's the same policy that New Zealand have. It's important.

"We want to see English players playing for English clubs against each other. There's about 30 of our squad in action in this weekend's Premiership semi-finals. It's part of our responsibility to protect that short-term and long-term.

"If we had changed this policy we would have feared more and more players going to France. Where does that leave you if more and more go? We believe that the dedication and commitment of our players would change if we picked overseas players."

"It's been a difficult decision but it's the right one long-term."

When asked whether Armitage should have been included on the merit of his top form, Lancaster was quick to praise the players selected.

"The quality of the players we've got is very strong in the back row," added Lancaster.

"We've picked eight very good players with a lot of experience, some younger lads too but guys like Calum Clark and Matt Kvesic deserve their chance. Dave Ewers also was very unlucky not to make the 50.

"Like I've said, the policy is there to protect the national team and long-term health of the English game."