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