Thursday, 2 April 2009

Au Revoir to English Rugby?

With England trio Riki Flutey, James Haskell and Tom Palmer all recently leaving London Wasps to join French clubs, it looks certain that more will follow, with England fly-half, Jonny Wilkinson, the latest to be rumoured with a move to a French club.

But what will it mean for the English game, and more importantly, the England national side?

Players who have moved to France fall outside an agreement made between the RFU and the Premiership, which allows players to be released early for England training camps and gives them a limit of 32 games a year.

Martin Johnson has already warned his elite players that moving abroad and not being part of the Elite Players Squad deal could damage their future International career. “Not being in that structure will, inevitably, affect individual players’ selection chances.”

One way to stop England Internationals moving abroad could be to adopt a similar method to Wales. The Wales national coach, Warren Gatland, prioritises players based in Wales, and with the exception of Sale’s scrum-half Dwayne Peel, his squad is home-based, with Welsh players moving back home to be in with a chance of selection.

But why have England Internationals started to move abroad?

The main reason seems to be money. The 12 Premiership clubs have a £4m salary cap for each club, whereas there are no restrictions for France’s Top 14 clubs who can offer wages, which the Premiership clubs can’t rival.

Another reason could be Martin Johnson recalling Brive fly-half Andy Goode for the two opening matches of the Six Nations. The former Leicester player moved to the French club last year, and his selection could have paved the way for the three England players to move abroad.

Danny Cipriani, who was another player linked to a move abroad, has just signed a new one year contract with Wasps, but unless the Premiership and RFU either reviews the salary cap or takes a firm stance on not picking English players based abroad, Cipriani and many other England stars could soon be making the move to France too.

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