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England get tough on player moves

James Haskell, Riki Flutey and Tom Palmer
Haskell, Flutey and Palmer will all leave Wasps for France next season

England manager Martin Johnson has warned his elite players their future international prospects will be harmed if they choose to play overseas.

James Haskell, Tom Palmer and Riki Flutey all announced lucrative moves to France's Top 14 league for next season.

Johnson wants to keep his best players within the Elite Players' Squad (EPS) deal brokered with Premiership clubs.

"Not being in that structure will, inevitably, affect individual players' selection chances," said Johnson.

"I am particularly concerned to see that we are able to take the strongest squad on tour each summer as we develop towards the World Cup in 2011."

The Rugby Football Union (RFU), the governing body, and Premier Rugby Limited, the organisation which represents the 12 Premiership clubs, have signed an agreement which allows England players to be released for international matches during the season.

But any club outside of the agreement does not need to adhere to the regulations.

An RFU management board meeting on Wednesday agreed that any England player wanting to remain within the EPS structure would need to have the same provisions included into his contract with his overseas club.

Those include setting a 32-game limit per year, a 10-week minimum off-season and release for training camps and the 'rest weekends' in the autumn and Six Nations periods.

I'm sure there'll be more players signing to go to France before the end of this season

Ex-England captain Lawrence Dallaglio

"The migration of a number of senior EPS players overseas at the same time does reduce the effectiveness of the EPS programmes in the new RFU/PRL agreement and creates certain contractual difficulties for us with these players," said RFU chief executive Francis Baron.

"It is therefore important that we establish and communicate clearly to players what our policy is for such moves so that they can properly take this into account when considering future career moves."

Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio wants England to adopt Wales' model of prioritising home-based players.

"That's what (Wales coach) Warren Gatland has done," the former England captain told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"He made an exception last week for (Sale scrum-half) Dwayne Peel but more often than not, all his players are moving back to Wales."

The Premiership's 12 clubs must operate within a stringent £4m salary cap set by Premier Rugby.

However, France's Top 14 clubs do not have any wage ceilings in place and can offer salaries which English teams cannot rival.

Dallaglio criticised Johnson's choice of playing Brive fly-half Andy Goode in England's two opening Six Nations matches.


Although the 28-year-old has been dropped in favour of Toby Flood for England's match against Ireland in Dublin, Dallaglio said Goode's selection would only encourage more players to cross the channel.

"By picking Andy Goode, that's sent the wrong message out to the England team," he said.

"I'm sure there'll be more players signing to go to France before the end of this season."

But Dallaglio is confident former Wasps colleague Danny Cipriani, overlooked for Johnson's 22 against Ireland and yet to sign a new contract at Adams Park, would reject overtures from France and remain in England.

"I think Danny knows the best place for him is in this country at the moment," he added.

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see also
Rees sad to see trio leave Wasps
23 Feb 09 |  London Wasps
Wasps 9-5 Northampton
20 Feb 09 |  English
Money matters for Wasps
18 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Trio quit Wasps to play in France
17 Feb 09 |  London Wasps
McGeechan realistic about player exits
17 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
England talent drain worries RFU
19 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union

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