French raids for England stars are ‘not going away’ with huge pressure on the RFU to lift ban on overseas-based players… with England boss Steve Borthwick facing a selection nightmare after the World Cup
- Anthony Watson is the latest England player consider a switch to France
- French clubs are targeting England stars following reduction in salary cap
- Toulouse lock Jack Willis given special dispensation to play in the Six Nations
England head coach Steve Borthwick faces being unable to pick many of his best players after this year’s World Cup due to an exodus to France and the RFU refusing to change their selection rules.
Leicester wing Anthony Watson is the latest England player to consider a switch to play in France. He is visiting Castres this week to discuss a possible transfer.
Sam Simmonds, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marchant and David Ribbans have already confirmed moves to the Top 14 following the conclusion of the World Cup later this year. Exeter Chiefs wing Jack Nowell is poised to sign for La Rochelle.
England’s selection ruling means that players who feature outside the country at club level are not eligible to play for Borthwick’s international side.
There is already significant pressure on the RFU to relax that stipulation and that will only increase in the coming months. The 11 Gallagher Premiership clubs are firmly against making such a change and on Thursday the league’s chief executive, Simon Massie-Taylor reiterated that.
Wing Anthony Watson is the latest England player to be considering a switch to France
A leading agent based in France told Sportsmail: ‘The reality is the top French clubs can now afford to sign England’s best players.’
‘The reduction in the salary cap and marquee player numbers in England is having a big impact and is the main reason why the English players are being targeted right now.
‘This isn’t going to go away. The salaries and lifestyle in France are very attractive to players and enough for some to turn their backs on international rugby.
‘If more and more England players move abroad, I think the RFU will have to look at their overseas ruling because their best players will be in France or Japan. The money in France is going up, not down.’
Massie-Taylor responded: ‘Having our English players playing within the Premiership is important for England and for the Premiership. From the RFU’s, ours and even the players’ perspective, we all see the importance of England internationals playing domestically.’
England boss Steve Borthwick faces a selection nightmare after this year’s World Cup
Toulouse lock Jack Willis was given special dispensation to play in the Six Nations
English rugby has been beset by financial chaos this season. Last year, Premiership sides Worcester and Wasps both went out of business, which left their players immediately redundant.
Former Wasps and England flanker Jack Willis joined French and European giant Toulouse as a result. He was given special dispensation to play in the Six Nations but his international future remains in doubt. Willis is set to stay with Toulouse for next season.
Borthwick has already made it clear he wants to be able to pick his best players.
‘Provisions exist for exceptional circumstances that will probably still carry on going forward, but we all agree England international players should be playing in the Premiership,’ said Massie-Taylor.
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