Lancaster: We will not change overseas selection policy
March 1, 2012
Luke Narraway has opted to move to Perpignan for next season © Getty Images
England coach Stuart Lancaster has confirmed that despite seeing the likes of Luke Narraway up sticks and move overseas there are no plans to change the Rugby Football Union's policy of not selecting players plying their trade abroad.
Narraway, England's back-row nearly man since an impressive debut against New Zealand in 2008, has confirmed he will be moving to Perpignan at the end of the season. The Gloucester captain has followed former London Irish flanker Steffon Armitage in deciding his rugby future lies in France and not on the international stage.
Nick Kennedy and Andrew Sheridan are both bound for Toulon while Delon Armitage has also been linked with a move to join his brother at the big-spending Top 14 club. Steffon Armitage is now tearing up trees for Toulon but cannot be considered by England following the introduction of the RFU's foreign policy in November.
The directive was brought in by former chief executive John Steele but Lancaster cannot see it changing under the new boss Ian Ritchie, who took office on Monday.
"I think the policy is here to stay," Lancaster said. "I spoke to Luke and he informed me of his intentions.
"It is player choice to decide where to go. It sounds like a great opportunity but it will make it very difficult to press his claims from overseas.
"There are plenty more people who want to play for England in the back row. He has made his decision and ultimately with that will come the risk in terms of international rugby."
Narraway is expected to be replaced at Gloucester by Ben Morgan, the current England number eight who plays his club rugby for the Scarlets. Morgan is not currently affected by the RFU's stance because his current Scarlets contract was already in place when the policy came into force - but his next move must be to England.
Lancaster was frustrated that International Rugby Board regulations forced him to send Morgan back to the Scarlets for Friday night's RaboDirect PRO12 game against Connacht. But Lancaster voluntarily released 17 others, including fly-halves Charlie Hodgson and Toby Flood who are competing for a place in England's 22 to face France a week on Sunday.
Lancaster accepts he has taken a risk in sending over half his squad back to their clubs just a week before 'Le Crunch' at the Stade de France. England are already facing concerns over Courtney Lawes, who was sent for a scan on a shin-splint complaint yesterday while fly-half Owen Farrell and wing Chris Ashton have both been hit by a sickness bug.
"Clearly there are selection decisions going into the game against France - and there are now 18 players going back to their clubs, so we might have some other selection decisions to make on the back of what happens this weekend," Lancaster said. "We're not obliged to release any players back. From my point of view we want the boys to go back and play.
"In order to play international rugby you've got to be in form, you've got to be playing well and to do that you've got to be playing rugby."
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