England refuse to back down over Haskell

Rob Andrew reiterated that England will not be releasing James Haskell to play for Stade Francais this weekend.

And in doing so, England's elite rugby director shifted the spotlight of the club-versus-country row directly on to the player himself.



Stade Francais are desperate for Haskell to be available for Saturday's pivotal Top 14 clash with Toulouse, for which they have sold nearly 80,000 tickets.



International Rugby Board regulations give clubs first call on players in a non-international week and there is nothing in Haskell's club contract to over-ride that.



But Andrew refused to back down, arguing England's decision is based on guarantees made by Haskell that he has a separate agreement in place with Stade Francais covering his release.



"We have been given assurances by James and his advisors that he has an agreement with Stade that he can fulfil the release periods for England training," said Andrew.



"The position is between the player and the club. There is no issue here between the RFU and Stade Francais."



England have always stated that players based in France would only be considered for national selection if they could guarantee being available whenever called upon by manager Martin Johnson.



Andrew stressed the onus is on the player - and not the Rugby Football Union - to ensure he is available for England duty.



The crux of the Haskell case appears to be whether he negotiated that flexibility with Stade Francais, and with enough clarity to include fallow weeks in the Six Nations.



England have been led to believe he did. If not, Haskell would not have been selected for the Six Nations.



"We set out very clearly what the ground rules were for the guys involved," Andrew added.



"We asked for players to give us undertakings from their advisors, their agents or their lawyers that they have agreed with their clubs what we effectively require.



"We can only go on an undertaking from the lawyer - which we have from James' lawyer - that he has the release periods that we require in his agreement with his club."



But if Haskell does not have the cast-iron arrangements in place with Stade then he could find himself in a very sticky situation.



In that scenario, Haskell could lose his England place if he returned to play for Stade Francais - but he could technically find himself in breach of his club contract if he stayed away.



In an ironic twist, Haskell may not be fit to play this weekend anyway having become the latest player in the England camp to contract a stomach bug.



Haskell did not train today, with his place taken by Joe Worsley.



Johnson responded to suggestions of a "convenient illness" by saying: "I spoke to the doctor and he said the symptoms could not be faked."



Johnson added: "It is James' understanding that he is not doing anything wrong."



But the Haskell situation is fast developing into a test case, with Stade Francais president Max Guazzini alert to the fact the RFU pay the English clubs millions of pounds to ensure player availability.



Guazzini yesterday appealed for the Six Nations committee to take action and he has had Haskell's absence from training in Paris this week independently verified.



"The Rugby Football Union has signed agreements with English clubs to pay for access to English internationals outside of the windows provided by the IRB," Stade said in a strongly-worded statement.



"This is not the case for French clubs who should not, therefore, finance the preparation of the England team."



Equally, the RFU will not want to be financing French club rugby and Andrew was at pains to stress Twickenham had not entered into any written agreements with any Top 14 clubs.



"There is no agreement between the RFU and Stade Francais. There never has been and there are no agreements between the RFU and any of the clubs," said Andrew.



"We asked the players to deliver an undertaking that in their agreements they had the appropriate release periods. That is what we have been given by all the players in this scenario."



News
people

Arts and Entertainment
JJ Abrams' seventh Star Wars, The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of Episode VII has gone online after weeks of anticipation
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
art

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game