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."



PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Sport
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
transfers
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
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

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home