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England flanker James Haskell regrets row with Stade

England and Stade Francais flanker James Haskell
Haskell scored two tries in England's opening Six Nations win over Wales

Flanker James Haskell has come down on the side of England in the bitter club-versus-country row that has broken out with his team Stade Francais.

Stade accused England of "blackmail" after refusing to release Haskell for a French Top 14 match last weekend.

But Haskell said: "My release for international duty and training is specifically provided for and I regret that there's been a misunderstanding.

"I'll be meeting with Stade once the Six Nations has been completed."

Stade had been keen for Haskell to play against Toulouse on Saturday in game the Parisian club lost 29-0 at the Stade de France, which was watched by a crowd of 80,000.

But the Rugby Football Union (RFU) insisted that Haskell had an agreement with Stade that he will be released for England duty during Elite Player Squad (EPS) periods.

"I'd like to make it clear that Stade Francais have been very good to me and I am very happy in Paris," added Haskell.

"I'm looking forward to playing for Stade Francais again at the conclusion of the Six Nations.

"Obviously, like any sportsman, the ultimate honour for me is to represent my country.

James Haskell

Late Haskell try secures England win

"I am now looking forward to putting this issue behind me so that my career can flourish at club and international level."

Haskell is set to be named in the England team to play the Calcutta Cup match against Scotland at Murrayfield on 13 March when manager Martin Johnson announces his selection on Tuesday.

Prior to Stade's match with Toulouse, the Parisian club's president Max Guazzini said the RFU was "keeping Haskell prisoner" and he has asked the Six Nations committee to punish England over their stance.

"In my view it is blackmail," Guazzini told BBC Sport.

"I am very sorry it has come to this. The RFU is keeping him prisoner. Frankly, I find their attitude lacks respect," he said.

Guazzini also claimed Haskell's contract stated he must be made available one week before the autumn Tests and one week before the Six Nations.

The RFU has a binding agreement with all English clubs over player release but has had to negotiate individually with French clubs over any English players joining up for EPS periods.

As well as Haskell, Jonny Wilkinson, Riki Flutey, Steve Thompson and Jamie Noon also play in France with Brive, while Paul Sackey recently agreed to join Toulon for next season.

There has been speculation that Guazzini will attempt to demand compensation from the RFU for access to any England players that sign for the club.

606: DEBATE
SwannyWilkinson

In March 2009, RFU chief Francis Baron wrote to all members of Johnson's elite squad warning them they could jeopardise their international future by moving abroad.

The following month, Haskell's agent Anthony Noguera said his contract with Stade stipulated that he should be released not only for England matches but also pre-competition training weeks.



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see also
Shaw ruled out of Scotland match
08 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
Sackey to leave Wasps for Toulon
18 Feb 10 |  London Wasps
Wilkinson extends Toulon contract
28 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
England 30-17 Wales
06 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
England talent drain worries RFU
19 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
RFU letter concerns player union
18 Mar 09 |  English
Trio quit Wasps to play in France
17 Feb 09 |  London Wasps


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