x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

England rugby union's new selection rules make no sense

After World Cup, the union will only pick home-based players for the national team.

Somewhere along the line, English rugby union has got its priorities mixed up. After the World Cup finishes in New Zealand later this year, the English RFU has stated it will select only home-based players for the national team.

So players like Tom Palmer, James Haskell and Jonny Wilkinson are going to have to choose between their lucrative contracts in France, or playing for their national team.

If they opt to take the money, good on them. The average wage for an Aviva Premiership rugby player is around £70,000 (Dh414,000). That is not too nasty, but hardly enough to retire on.

Sportsmen, of course, are only ever one serious injury away from retirement, so they must make hay while the sun shines. In France, the sun shines on rugby players 24/7 at the moment.

While the powers that be get set to ostracise their best players for seeking the best wage they can find, the gaps left could well be filled by players whose motives are mercenary anyway. The England rugby team - and it is not alone in UK sport - is awash with South Africa and New Zealand-born players who went north initially in search of a professional contract, then ended up flying the flag of convenience in the national team.

They are playing by the same rules as everyone else. But for them to be wearing the red rose on their chest, while those who are paid in euros rather than pounds are forced to watch from a distance could stick in the craw.