A backlash from fans has followed the recent refusal by Rugby Football Union chief Bill Sweeney to rule out the possibility of England picking overseas players in the wake of Saracens’ relegation.
The reigning Gallagher Premiership champions were automatically relegated on Saturday for breaching the salary cap, which may result in an exodus of players – either permanently or on loan – who want to continue playing in Europe’s premier competitions next season.
While nothing has been confirmed yet, this may result in players moving to French clubs, partly due to the higher wages than Premiership clubs, but also to avoid moving to rival teams in England.
How good would they look in these French club colours? https://t.co/qCEfGCe6Tk
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 21, 2020
The RFU announced in 2010 that any overseas player after the 2011 World Cup would not be selected for England unless there were “exceptional circumstances”.
Since then, England have missed out on the chance of picking players such as Clermont’s Nick Abendanon and former Toulon loose forward Steffon Armitage, both of whom were named the European player of the year during their time in France.
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Eddie Jones insists the Saracens scandal could be beneficial to England
However, “exceptional circumstances” is rather vague, which does open the door to picking Saracens players in the event of them moving abroad. This is not necessarily just to France, as some players have been rumoured to be moving further afield.
But many people on social media have objected to this announcement, believing it is unfair on those players over the past decade who have missed out on representing their country.
I don't think overseas players should be picked, again this is a rule or they should of picked the Armitage brothers while they were playing in France and they were quality players.
— Nick (@Nick_1971_) January 22, 2020
While those players did know the ruling when they moved to France, it is even more unfair on those that have opted to remain in England to further their international career.
Manu Tuilagi is just one player that has been mentioned, as he rejected a potentially lucrative move to the Top 14’s Racing 92 last year in order to remain eligible for England.
So all those England players who chose to go to France and lost the chance to play. Can they no consider legal action?
— Franklin'sFan (@DiSaint14) January 21, 2020
So RFU are considering changing their stance on players playing for foreign teams due to the Sarries farce
Sorry but how many players in the past have had to forgo playing for their country to ensure financial stability ? https://t.co/nvSWPndT0p
— RugbyGirl (@DfRugbygirl) January 21, 2020
Some people have even suggested this may have legal ramifications, as those formerly overlooked players may take action against the RFU for being unfairly treated.
Basically cheats do prosper then. Talk about ripping England rugby to pieces, tuilagi had to stay in england to play for his country and not pursue a mega money deal. That's just one example of one player who would be screwed over.
— Luke Roper (@LukeRoper6) January 21, 2020
That's bound to please those players who were told to gtf by England when they went to play for clubs in France.
— Alastair Campbell (@RadarLanark) January 22, 2020
This very situation that the current Saracens players find themselves in may justifiably be what the RFU deems to be exceptional circumstances, particularly if they only move on loan for a season and are set to return to Saracens.
Of course, no player has announced such a move yet. But as these are unprecedented circumstances, the RFU and Premiership Rugby may need to encounter each new problem when it arises.
WATCH: Andy Goode and Brendan Venter get into heated debate on The Rugby Pod over the Saracens salary scandal
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