Lancaster has no regrets over Armitage

2015-05-21 12:39
Stuart Lancaster (AFP)

London - Coach Stuart Lancaster has no regrets about overlooking Steffon Armitage and says the policy of excluding overseas-based players from playing for England protects the national team and is also good for the long-term health of English club rugby.

Toulon's Armitage, last season's European player of the year, and the man who took that honour this year, Nick Abendanon of Clermont Auvergne, were, as expected, absent from Lancaster's 50-man Rugby World Cup squad unveiled on Wednesday.

They were not considered because of the Rugby Football Union's long-stated rule that overseas-based players would be selected only in extraordinary circumstances and though the RFU and Lancaster have consistently said they had no intention of invoking that clause for the World Cup, British media were relentless in questioning him on the issue during his Twickenham news conference.

"We've not wavered nor changed our position on it," he said.

"The reason the policy was put in place in 2011 was to protect the short, medium and long term health of the English game - the club game and the national team.

"It's supported by clubs, Premier Rugby and the Rugby Players' Association. The bottom line is we want to see all of our players play for English clubs."

The agreement was part of the deal thrashed out with England's clubs that secured the national team much-improved access to players and helped end years of club v country fighting.

Lancaster, whose whole approach is based on teamship, trust and responsibility, also said that to change the rules for a potential short-term gain would wipe out all the goodwill developed on his watch.

"When the policy came out there was a commitment from a group of players to the England team," he said. "Some made the decision to return to England, and for the last three years have dedicated themselves to the shirt.

"We believe that dedication and commitment would be eroded were we to change the policy now."

Armitage, who won the last of his five caps in 2010, has developed into one of the world's best opensides but even if he had been selected he would have had to dislodge Lancaster's most loyal servant in captain Chris Robshaw.

Abendanon's England career is even more distant and fleeting - one start and one replacement appearance in 2007 - and he has barely been on the international radar since.

"We have the first chance now for a long time for England to be (consistently) successful because you look at the spirit of the team, the culture, the quality of the players, the number coming through," Lancaster said.

"We don't want to jeopardise that for one thing."

Read more on:    england  |  stuart lancaster  |  rugby

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