Courtney Lawes urges RFU to bin overseas rule as England stars head to France

The blindside flanker is one of a number of Premiership stars moving to France this summer

Harry Latham-Coyle
Thursday 21 March 2024 13:54 GMT
Courtney Lawes will join Brive in ProD2 next season
Courtney Lawes will join Brive in ProD2 next season (PA Wire)

Courtney Lawes has urged the Rugby Football Union (RFU) to reconsider its position on players based overseas and allow them to play for England.

Lawes, who concluded his international career after last year’s World Cup, is one of a number of Premiership players moving to France at the end of the season.

The blindside flanker will depart Northampton Saints for Brive in ProD2, with Owen Farrell, who is joining Racing 92, and Manu Tuilagi, bound for Bayonne, other prominent figures making the move.

It means that at least nine of Steve Borthwick’s squad for the World Cup will ply their trade across the Channel, with several more considering offers.

The RFU has persisted with a policy that only players based in England will be considered for national duty since 2012, but Lawes believes a rethink is required.

“I think they could change the rules,” Lawes said ahead of Northampton’s return to action in the Premiership against Bristol on Friday night. “Whether they will or not is another question. I think they probably should, because players go to France and become better players, and then you’re losing that talent from the English game.

“We would lose some players, definitely, from the Prem, but it wouldn’t be as many as they think, I think. It’s not like France haven’t got pretty good rugby players there, and ones from all round the world that they can bring over.

“It goes in a bit of a circle, but the main thing is you want England to go well, and if your best players are playing abroad then you’re only hurting yourself.”

Henry Arundell, Joe Marchant and Jack Willis are among the individuals playing in France’s Top 14 who Borthwick was keen to keep available.

Owen Farrell will join French club Racing 92 in the summer (PA Wire)

Wales have a cap threshold for players who move overseas to remain eligible for Warren Gatland’s squad, which was reduced from 60 caps to 25 last year.

Lawes played alongside Welshman Dan Biggar at Northampton for several seasons and believes it helped the fly half develop, and would favour a similar policy for England internationals.

“It’s a way of saying, ‘If you want to go abroad, you can stay here, earn your stripes and then you can go and are still eligible.’ I don’t think that’s a terrible idea,” Lawes explained.

“[Biggar] definitely became a better player for it, and as we’ve seen some of our players become better players abroad,” Lawes said. “You’re wasting their talent if you’re not picking them.”

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