England is not really the place for Englishmen to be playing just at the moment: ask Iain Balshaw, Ayoola Erinle and Magnus Lund, all of whom are now contemplating a rare shot at European glory with Biarritz in the Heineken Cup final later this month. Yet precious few France-based personnel are likely to make the cut for the red-rose trip to Australia and New Zealand in June, even though they are performing at levels over and above that commonly seen in the Premiership this term and are dominating every last piece of cross-border business.
Balshaw, cast aside by the England management the moment Martin Johnson succeeded Brian Ashton as top dog during the spring of 2008, does not expect to fly south, not least because Ben Foden of Northampton, Delon Armitage of London Irish and Olly Morgan of Gloucester are ahead of him in the pecking order. Asked after his club's Heineken Cup victory over Munster in San Sebastian at the weekend whether he hoped Johnson might cast an eye over him when the trophy goes up for grabs at Stade de France in 18 days' time, he replied: "I won't even think about it."
If the unusually substantial Erinle, who made a sudden appearance in the national midfield last autumn before disappearing just as abruptly, has an outside chance, it is because the current selectors prize size above skill. However, they are more likely to turn to Olly Barkley of Bath.
Lund, meanwhile, has no realistic chance of a recall. The former Sale flanker won the last of his 10 caps during the Ashton regime and has since been overhauled by a small legion of rivals. One of them, James Haskell, is still on the books of the Parisian club Stade Français, but he was dropped before last month's Heineken Cup quarter-final with Toulouse and is by no means certain to remain on the far side of the water.
Haskell aside, the only Francophiles considered certain to head for Wallaby country are Tom Palmer, also of Stade Français, Jonny Wilkinson of Toulon and Steve Thompson of Brive. Of these, Palmer has the best chance of starting the first Test against Australia in Perth, but even his claims will be weakened if Steve Borthwick, the captain, puts his knee problems behind him and plays for Saracens in the next 12 days.Reuse content