RFU chief sheds light on England and Saracens dilemma
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney has refused to rule out the possibility of allowing England to select Saracens players who move abroad following the salary cap scandal.
The double winners will be relegated from the English Premiership at the end of the season after breaching the £7 million ($9 million) limit on wages and are likely lose a number of their stars for the 2020-21 campaign.
Although England coach Eddie Jones is permitted to pick from Championship clubs, it is an unsatisfactory scenario, especially with the British and Irish Lions touring South Africa next year.
With recruitment by Premiership teams for next season well underway, Saracens players could move to France – a decision that would normally make them unavailable for England selection.
However, the RFU can reverse this policy in “exceptional circumstances” and Sweeney said he would act in the best interests of the England team.
The chief executive said the current focus was on the upcoming Six Nations, with England opening their campaign against France on February 2.
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“Right now it doesn’t impact the Six Nations and it doesn’t impact the tour to Japan in July,” he said. “The first time we need to consider things like that are the autumn internationals.
“We can select players from the Championship, that’s always been the case, but anything to do with exemptions and exceptional circumstances is a bit hypothetical at this stage.
“Any decisions made [will be] in the best interests of the England team and the players. The players are at the forefront of our considerations and we want to make sure that, whatever happens, the players aren’t disadvantaged in any way.”
There are seven Saracens players in England’s Six Nations squad, including key figures such as Owen Farrell, Jones’s captain in Japan, and lock Maro Itoje.
Jones is determined that any uncertainty over their long-term club and Test futures, or the bitterness felt by many within English rugby towards Saracens, does not derail his squad’s title ambitions.
The Australian plans to hold a clear-the-air meeting with his players at the start of England’s warm-weather training camp in Portugal on Thursday.