Peter Bills: England's overseas player selection row

Talking Rugby...

So England select some overseas players available to them and certain critics, including from the players’ ranks, moan. How predictable. England for the little Englanders, eh?

Luke Narraway’s thinly disguised attempt at a complaint at seeing an England squad that contains the likes of Kiwi Thomas Waldrom, South African Mouritz Botha, South African Matt Stevens and Samoan born Manu Tuilagi should be answered with a frank point.





‘Son, if you were really good enough, you’d be in there no matter who else was or wasn’t.'



I liked the cut of England boss Martin Johnson’s jib when he was questioned about the presence of the overseas born players in the 45 strong preliminary group. "No one has said anything to me so I'll report back if they do," he replied. "I've not had that feedback from anyone.





In other words, take a running jump. And Johnson is right. England don’t have a centre of any quality right now so Tuilagi had to come in. He has power and potential just as long as he can keep his fists in better order than of late.





Waldrom is your archetypal Kiwi; he does the basics well and consistently. He’s solid and industrious. He is just the sort of player to inspire others and create good habits in younger players around him.





Besides, this is not exactly a new innovation for England, choosing overseas born players. Look at Shontayne Hape, Riki Flutey and Dylan Hartley. None of them were born in Lewisham.





Criticism of Johnson’s selection shows a lack of worldliness on the part of his critics. Because look at all the other countries of the world who have selected overseas players when it has suited them. New Zealand would hardly have been able to select a full XV in recent years without the help of myriad players from the South Pacific islands.





Many of them have had only tenuous links to New Zealand but they have been chosen. Only one criteria has applied – were they good enough? If they were, they were included. And there was no debate.





France have selected South Africans like Eric Melville and Pieter de Villiers in the past; Ireland selected Australian Brian Smith, now England’s attack coach, when he was at Oxford University some years ago and Scotland chose Kiwis lie Brendan Laney. Then there was Wales. Didn’t they select a New Zealander, Shane Howarth, at full-back? And didn’t it emerge long afterwards that perhaps his Grandma wasn’t after all the cast-iron guarantor of qualification that she was made out to be at the time?



So why shouldn’t England do it? And remember, didn’t England once choose a white Russian to dazzle Twickenham crowds? Now that’s going back a few years……





It IS an indictment, of course, of the English system that the national squad has to include overseas born players. But it is because the Aviva Premiership has become so multi-cultural with players from all around the world coming to this country to play. In many cases, they have filled the positions that would have been held by young English lads – like Luke Narraway. But as I say, the best English players still found a way into the squad or team.





I see nothing whatsoever wrong with that. In fact, I think it strengthens England. For the best young players of this country to see and work with players with exemplary standards from overseas can only enhance their learning process. It’s like soccer – surely Arsenal’s young players benefitted from the presence of Frenchmen like Thierry Henry and Robert Pires at their club. Didn’t aspiring youngsters at Tottenham thrill to the skills and exploits of David Ginola a few years back?





Johnson is right to move in this direction. Of that there is no doubt.

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
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

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories