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England stand firm on overseas-based players rule

NEWS: Rugby Football Union CEO Bill Sweeney said there were no plans to alter rules banning overseas-based players from England duty despite several internationals joining French clubs.

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Several players capped by England – including Jack Willis, Henry Arundell and Joe Marchant – are currently ruled out of Test selection as a result of playing their club rugby in France’s Top 14.

Former England captain Owen Farrell will move from Saracens to Paris-based Racing 92 at the end of the season, with Northampton skipper Lewis Ludlam and Bristol prop Kyle Sinckler to join Toulon.

But with three Premiership clubs – London Irish, Wasps and Worcester – going out of business last season, questions have been raised over whether the RFU should uphold the ban.

In an effort to keep top talent at home, 25 new ‘hybrid contracts’, worth £150,000 ($190,000) per year but ranging in duration, will be given to leading squad members selected by head coach Steve Borthwick.

Sweeney, asked if he was worried by the number of players leaving English rugby, replied: “Actually, not really.

“Where we currently stand on the policy of only selecting players based in England stays as it is.

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“If you actually look at the players we’ve got abroad, they probably made a decision in terms of ‘where’s my England career currently? Am I in contention for a place in those hybrid contracts? Am I in that core group of England players going forward?’

“If they have come to the conclusion that they are not – and most of them have had conversations with Steve anyway – it is partly a lifestyle choice as much as anything else.”

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