Eddie Jones: No reason to panic after trio cross channel

Calling the shots

I guess there are plenty of people out there, particularly down in the southern hemisphere, who are amused to see English rugby – in particular, the Rugby Football Union – in a degree of discomfort over the decisions of three members of the current Test squad, including a seriously good international prospect in James Haskell, to leave the domestic game and head for pastures new in France. Let’s face it: the Guinness Premiership isn’t exactly short of imports from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Now the boot is on the other foot, the Sanzar nations are bound to find it funny.

But I’m not at all sure the departures of Haskell, Riki Flutey and Tom Palmer represent a doomsday scenario for the professional game in this country, despite the panic-stricken reaction from some quarters. We’re in the modern world now – a world where money talks, and where an opportunity to perform alongside some of the very best players around talks even louder. Haskell and Palmer are not leaving for any old club: they’re leaving for Stade Français, who play their rugby in Paris, sometimes in front of 80,000 paying customers, and have some spectacular talent on their books. When a team like Stade go after you, it’s a big call to knock them back.

Which is not to suggest that Wasps, where all three of these blokes currently play their rugby, are a small club. Their record of success is pretty special, not least in Europe, where their two Heineken Cup titles compare very favourably to Stade Français’ none. But they are a high- achieving club who do what they do on a relatively tight budget and it is inevitable that they will lose people at certain points in the cycle. As a young player becomes more successful, his value in the market can rise by multiples of three or four. When that happens, a tipping point is quickly reached.

It seems to me that Haskell, the most talked about of the three, was telling the truth when he said that money was not the principal motivating force behind his decision. Flutey might be a little different – he, after all, is a fair bit older, is already a long way from his home in New Zealand, and wants to take his chances while he can. But Haskell, a strong player with a long future ahead of him as well as a bright one, could easily have cashed in heavily here in England, so there must be more to it from his perspective. I think he asked himself whether he really wanted to play against Wasps, who have brought him through their academy, in a Premiership match next season, and decided he didn’t. I can understand that.

There is no reason why Martin Johnson and the rest of the England management shouldn’t keep him at the forefront of their minds. It’s not as if he’s pushed off to Sydney or Auckland: he’s just across the water, a quick flight away, and if he really wants to, Martin can pop over a see him train, as well as play. (I have to say I was pretty surprised to hear the manager say he hadn’t been down to Brive to watch Andy Goode before picking him at the start of the Six Nations).

Another thought occurs to me, in response to some comments from Premiership coaches that Haskell won’t find the consistent level of competition in France that he gets here in England. I’m good friends with my countryman Ewen McKenzie, who coaches Stade Français, and I can tell you he disagrees with that view pretty profoundly. Yes, there are teams in the Top 14 who operate below the standard we’ve come to expect in the elite league here, but the best sides in France – Toulouse, Perpignan, Clermont Auvergne and so on – are seriously good.

Just look at the back-rowers the Parisians already have: Mauro Bergamasco (a better flanker than he is a scrum-half, you’ll agree); Juan Leguizamon, the powerful Argentine forward; and Sergio Parisse, one of the world’s best without a doubt. You can’t tell me someone like Haskell won’t benefit from playing with these people, or that when he returns to England, he won’t be better for the experience. Always assuming, of course, that he makes the Stade Français team.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own