x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

England rugby authorities must revisit policy on mercenaries

If players go abroad, they are written off, but there should not be such stigma. It has many positives, writes Paul Radley.

Danny Cipriani has plied his wares for Sydney Rebels after leaving international game for England behind. Mark Kolbe / Getty Images
Danny Cipriani has plied his wares for Sydney Rebels after leaving international game for England behind. Mark Kolbe / Getty Images

England are facing such an availability crisis ahead of their summer tour of New Zealand they even have to pick Steffon Armitage.

The flanker was named as the best player in France two years ago and has probably been in even better form this season.

He is a man who, at age 28, is probably at the peak of his powers.

But because Armitage plays outside England, he is only going to be considered for national duty because of “exceptional circumstances,” according to the prevailing policy. It seems a daft debate.

Such insularity seems self-defeating. If players go abroad, they are written off as mercenaries, but there should not be such stigma. It has many positives.

England’s football team, as an example, have underachieved for years. Few leading English players go abroad and broaden their experiences – either lifestyle or playing. Their horizons are limited and so is performance.

Danny Cipriani and James Haskell had England careers of contrasting merits before they jetted off abroad, thus leaving the international game behind. Yet, armed with experience gained in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and France between them, each will be better equipped if they get England recalls this summer.

England worry that they do not have full control over the schedules of players who go abroad. But the late Premiership final this year will also have a knock-on effect on the Test side for New Zealand, anyway, so what is the difference?

pradley@thenational.ae

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