RFU rule out ban on overseas-based players

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The Independent Online

Rob Andrew insists the Rugby Football Union will not demand that only players from the Guinness Premiership should be available to England.

The policy exists in New Zealand and Australia to try to fend off cash-rich northern hemisphere clubs and keep their best players at home.

The RFU are concerned by the potential long-term impact of this week's announcement that James Haskell, Riki Flutey and Tom Palmer will all swap Wasps for the French championship next season.

While Andrew admitted the RFU would have to monitor the situation carefully, he does not believe restricting England selection is necessary yet.

"There is no policy as far as that is concerned," said Andrew, who played for England in the 1992 Five Nations while spending a year with Toulouse.

"This is a new dynamic in terms of England and England senior internationals going to play in France. We clearly have to look at it closely, watch it closely.

"We have to consider the impact of this moving forward. We have to see where this takes us.

"But in my personal view, and we have got a management board meeting next Wednesday, limiting England selection to Premiership players only is not appropriate at this point in time."

Haskell, Flutey and Palmer will no longer fall under England's £100million elite player agreement and the RFU are waiting to discover full details of the release clauses that have been written into their contracts.

There is also a fear the Wasps trio could spark an exodus of players attracted by the current exchange rate and clubs not bound by the salary cap.

The whole matter will be discussed at an RFU management board meeting next Wednesday.

Particular attention is likely to focus on whether the Guinness Premiership clubs are being denied their full £146,500 compensation for producing each England player.

Wasps claim that so-called 'revenue smoothing' by Premier Rugby - effectively the equal division of the RFU's compensation - means they are left £750,000 short.