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An Englishman Abroad - picking an England exiles XV

By Stefan Frost
Gabriel Ibitoye /PA

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Under RFU international eligibility rules, any Englishman exercising their rugby skills abroad cannot be picked to wear the red rose. However, this ruling has not stopped athletes passing their trade beyond the border. Below is a starting XV of English players who have taken the leap to play their rugby in another country.

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1. Henry Thomas
Henry Thomas started his professional career with Sale Sharks before transferring to Bath in 2014. He attained his seventh and final cap as a prop for England that same year. After playing 118 games for Bath, Thomas decided to join Montpellier in 2021 and remains there today.

2. Greg Bateman
Greg Bateman joined the Leicester Tigers from the Exeter Chiefs in 2015, covering all front row positions in his 92 appearances. Bateman, who is eligible for both Wales and England, joined the Dragons in 2020 to play in the United Rugby Championship.

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3. Kieran Brookes
Although he represented Ireland at the U-20 level, Kieran Brookes has since played for the England Saxons. He has accrued over 200 Premiership caps for numerous sides, including the Newcastle Falcons, Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints and Wasps. The tighthead left Wasps last summer to join Toulon, who are currently bottom of the Top-14.

4. George Kruis
George Kruis won Champions Cups and Premiership titles with Saracens but decided to leave the north London club in 2020 after they were relegated for breaching the salary cap. The second row was a starter for England at the time but is now ineligible for selection after moving to Japan to play for the Panasonic Wild Knights.

5. Joel Kpoku
Joel Kpoku came through the Saracens academy and was offered his first professional contract with the team in 2020. The second row had previously played for the England U-20s but has put his international career in jeopardy by joining Lyon at the start of this season.

Rugby England U23
Joel Kpoku celebrates with the England U20 side, although it might not be long before he’s doing the same with the seniors. (Getty Images)
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6. Tom Savage
Tom Savage made 79 appearances for Gloucester over an eight-year stretch. He was named the club captain at the start of the 2013/14 season and now plays his rugby for Suntory Sungoliath in the Japan’s Top League, either as a lock or flanker.

7. Zach Mercer
Zach Mercer spent five years with Bath and played for England twice during this period. In 2021 Mercer crossed the channel to play for Montpellier, a side that currently sit second in the Top-14. He scored a try on his league debut in a 24-24 draw with Toulon.

Zach Mercer
Zach Mercer /Getty

8. Steffon Armitage
Steffon Armitage featured for England on five occasions but has played in France for most of his rugby career. The back row forward left London Irish for Toulon in 2011 and went on to win the European Player of the Year and Top 14 title in 2014. Since then, Armitage has featured for Pau, the San Diego Legion in America and is now back in France playing for relegation-threatened Biarritz Olympique.

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9. Chris Cook
Scrumhalf Chris Cook played for Bath, his hometown club, on 143 occasions before announcing a move to local rivals Bristol Bears in 2020. A year later he joined the Northampton Saints but never featured and so has relocated to Italy for the remainder of the season to play for Zebre Parma in United Rugby Championship.

10. Stephen Myler
Having spent over ten years with Northampton Saints, Stephen Myler is now playing his rugby in Wales. The fly half, capped by England once, joined the Ospreys in 2020 from London Irish, where he is serving as the backup to Gareth Anscombe.

Myler Ospreys
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

11. Gabriel Ibitoye
Gabriel Ibitoye, a former England U-20s winger, left Harlequins in 2020 and moved to France to play for Agen before completing a short loan spell with Montpellier. The winger is currently contracted for Tel Aviv Heat, Israel’s first professional rugby club, but will return to England this summer after signing a contract with Bristol Bears.

12. Zack Henry
Zack Henry represented Great Britain in the sevens circuit before joining Leicester Tigers for the 2020/21 season. The versatile flyhalf played 26 times for the Tigers before securing a move to Pau ahead of this season. He has started eight times for the French side.

Bath hammer young Leicester
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

13. Harry Glover
Former England sevens star Harry Glover signed for Stade Français at the start of this season. Glover was part of the sevens team which lost to New Zealand in the final of the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens and has since crossed over to 15s where he plays either in the centres or on the wing.

14. Jordan Olowofela
Jordan Olowofela was voted the England U-20s Elite Player of the Squad in 2018, helping him break into the Leicester Tigers starting line-up. After scoring six tries in 41 appearances, Olowofela was loaned to Western Force for the 2021 instalment of Super Rugby. The winger is now on loan to the Dragons and has been capped seven times for the Newport side.

15. Matt Gallagher
Fullback Matt Gallagher represented England at U-20s level in the 2016 World Rugby Championship but is also eligible for Ireland through his grandparents. Gallagher made the first of 44 appearances for Saracens in 2014 before joining Munster in 2020. He has scored two tries in 11 games for the Irish province.

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