England convert: Shontayne Hape played league for New Zealand but has opted to wear the red rose in union

By Sarah Mockford, Rugby World Features Editor

THE RFU have vowed that after the 2011 World Cup they will only pick players for England that are playing in England. But while they are demanding the players’ loyalty, they aren’t offering the same in return.

It’s easy to see why the RFU want their players in the Aviva Premiership – they have a deal with the top-flight clubs that allows them access to those players pretty much as often as they want. But while they want their internationals and future internationals to turn down big-money offers to move to France to play in the salary cap-limited Premiership, are they giving the players the same commitment in return?

Powerful prospect: Quins centre Jordan Turner-Hall

Dylan Hartley, Riki Flutey and Shontayne Hape all hail from New Zealand, Matt Stevens is a South African while the latest man to declare his intention to don the white shirt – Leicester No 8 Thomas Waldrom – is a Kiwi with an English grandmother.

If England are going to continue to favour parachuting in players from overseas for short-term gains rather than developing home-grown youngsters, why should those talented young Englishmen turn down the opportunity to set themselves up for life post-rugby with bigger pay cheques in France?

Let’s take centre as an example. Dominic Waldouck has long been earmarked for full England honours, has come up through the age groups and has steadily improved at Wasps. Harlequins’ Jordan Turner-Hall and George Lowe are another two exciting prospects at centre. All three are home-grown and, in fact, Waldouck and Turner-Hall have both been involved with the senior England squad without winning a cap.

Test hopeful: Thomas Waldrom has an English grandmother

Instead one player who turned out for New Zealand in rugby league internationals – Hape – and another who was never deemed good enough for the All Blacks – Flutey – have been preferred in the England midfield.

I’m not denying that they’re good players, but what message does it send out to today’s youngsters if those who take pride in wearing the red rose in their teenage years and work hard for their club then find their passage to the England team blocked by players born overseas.

The case of Waldrom is even more telling about attitudes to New Zealanders. As soon as the news broke about his English grandmother, people were talking about him displacing Nick Easter in the England No 8 shirt. Yes, he’s played well for Leicester this season and could excel in international rugby, but this is a player brushed aside by the All Blacks and should we be so excited about someone in his 30s who has far from a long future left in the game.

In the short term his being capped could work well for England, but long term the national team could suffer. Young No 8s being passed over might look for a big overseas club deal thinking their Test prospects are limited. Players will get sick of biding their time if they continue to see foreigners gaining honours.

If England want their new policy to work post-RWC 2011, they need to start showing home-grown players the same loyalty that they are asking for. Short-term gains can equal long-term pains.

  • stryka7

    this is such a crack up,and there are a couple of issues here.
    As a kiwi all ive heard from the UK media in the last few years is how NZ and OZ steal Pacific Island Players, and how crap the Super 14/15 is. So, if players from the southern hemishphere are so crap, and the super 15, why is the england team full of players from nz etc, and why are the northern hemisphere clubs full of kiwis etc as well? Stephen Jones etc have been hating on super rugby and disrespecting the quality of southern hemisphere rugby in general, but the funny thing is, rugby league is taking over down here in NZ, and in OZ. In OZ, union has a tiny following, they all play league and ozzy rules…….if oz was primarily a rugby union country, they would probably be head and shoulders over everyone else! I know, league is big in england, but not on the same scale as OZ. So, those in the north should not be so disrespectful!

  • Jacob

    I really don’t see why England players should be discouraged from playing abroad. Let’s face it, we hardly have the best league in the world and, although we have a larger population than many of the big rugby nations as a whole, we have a small area geographically. It really shouldn’t be too much trouble if players want to play in other European nations at least. France is pretty much a short train ride away. Also, if we want our Engalnd squad to keep its edge once smaller rugby nations grow to be more dominant then our players must play at the top level of competition all the time. Let’s face it, the premier league is not that.

  • James Lanaway

    @ Mark Peterson – we do already have a restriction on foreign players in the Premiership… from the Aviva Premiership web site (http://bit.ly/q0lkn5): “The rule on foreign players has been amended to come into line with the regulations in European competitions. A maximum of two foreign players can now be on the pitch at any one time, at all periods during the season.”

    Of course, foreign means someone from outside of the EU and not from the ACP Group of States (which includes South Africa, Zimbabwe, Fiji, Tonga & Samoa among others) – google the Bosman and Kolpak rulings for more details.

    Although, I agree – it just makes me uncomfortable seeing Flutey in an England shirt!

  • kevin mitchell

    Blokes from the South come up here and in general play bloody well and manage 2 outshine alot of English players and all of a sudden England management drop the Pacific Island annual rant.Perhaps the line should be why it happens and where is our production line and just for good measure our coach(Mr Johnson)played his age group rugby
    is perhaps where young blood should go and that would be N.Z. and wasn’t half bad.

  • Alistair N W Newman

    The sooner the IRB sort out the eligibility mess the better. M Fa`asuvu 2003 Samoa 2008 GB & England Rugby League 2011 Samoa again.
    Junior World Cup Samoan ( to be named) players for Samoa 2010 & then for NZ 2011.
    Paul M`s article excusing England`s “13 out of 45” foreigners does not ring true to me.
    Why should Tier 1 international players then be eligible for the Pacific isles teams ? I do have to agree with the nations who voted against that proposal.
    Perhaps being capped in the u20 RWC should mean that you have picked your nation AND then you cannot change. Surely this would protect more of the Pacific islanders.

  • Mark Petersen

    It is a tough call for England. i am for some form of restriction on the number of foreigners on the field at any one time for a club. This may assist the development of England players without overwhelming to competition with foreigners.

  • Rich

    It’s one of the great fallacies of world rugby that New Zealand and Australia trawl the islands looking for rugby talent. Auckland is the biggest Polynesian city in the world and Sydney is not far behind. Of the probable AB squad this year there are three not born in New Zealand. Kaino and Muliaini both moved to New Zealand aged four and Sivivatu was 17. It’s not fair to compare that with the current England situation where players are learning their trade abroad and then cashing in at the expense of local talent.

    I think people have this idea of the white farmers from New Zealand that toured in the 60s and 70s and believe that that is New Zealand. It’s not. New Zealand is a massively multicultural society and every year more migrants come from the pacific islands, asia and further afield. The All Blacks are a reflection of that, which can only be a good thing.

  • Gaz Long

    England, no can’t really call them england anymore, with them stacking their team with kiwis and sth africans, their really are barbarian side now, england you are a disgrace!

  • Pete

    I am a very proud Englishman who would have loved to play rugby for England.

    This may be a bit controversial, but as a country we have a history of turning up somewhere and saying it’s England. Who are we to turn someone away because they spent their formative years somewhere else? Our country is more than soil and blood it is a mindset, a way of life and an attitude. As far as I’m concerned, as long as that player loves this country, is proud to wear the red rose and considers himself English, then he is. Nothing else to it.

    Mouritz Botha came over 7 years ago with a dream of playing top-flight rugby, he’s now pushing for a place in the Senior side. He says he’s English. He doesn’t want to live in South Africa again. Would you deny him that?

    Those ‘foreign’ players (which is a term I almost find offensive) being selected over players who are better than them is the issue – but let’s leave nationality out of it. We are not a country to complain about imposed nationalities.

  • rolex fake

    Nice and thanks!

  • Ben Saunders

    What message does the selection of Flutey and Hape send out to young English players? Firstly, that these players have been selected because they fit into the way England want to play, and secondly, that the England management think they’re the best options. I would hope that any young talent would use that as motivation to improve.

    This article is scaremongering: Waldrom hasn’t even been selected for England yet, and that he wasn’t selected for All Black duty is irrelevant. Rodney So’oialo was an All Black stalwart and yet probably wouldn’t have made many other national sides. Coaches pick players to fill a role and to fit into a brand of play.

  • Simon Rees

    Interesting article, and ensuing debate. However you are conflating two issues: England’s readiness to accept southern hemisphere rejects, and the premiership-only rule.

    On the first point, although we shouldn’t accept second best, nor should we accept that the NZ selection process, for example, is better than England’s. Rejection by z southern hemisphere side may indicate a flaw in their process, not the player’s ability. I coach juniors and yes, it must be demoralising for players like Jordan-Hall (and I really hope hid recent firm gets him the call-up he deserves) but nowadays, sadly, internationals are about winning, and all the benefits that brings each national union. A coach must choose the best team he can from the eligible player pool. The question is, is the grandparent rule fair?

    The second point is overseas players. England’s position is daft, dreamed up in concert with the premiership to protect a position that while laudable is doomed without international cooperation. They are forcing players to make the same choices between club and country that we’ve all mocked footballers for. Mark my words, no good will come of this experiment with professionalism…

  • Lyno

    Thomas Waldrom is 28 – apparently that’s prime age for English players for the last decade or so.

    Second of all, maybe the Premiership needs to stop employing overseas players then, I think Welsh clubs certainly need to, the best player in each of their regions is a Kiwi basically, and Lyons is an Aussie.

    As an Aussie who loves his Super Rugby, I certainly will be very happy to see European clubs starting to limit or cease foreign players a lot more – then maybe we can hang onto some quality players who leave to earn a bit of extra coin such as Chris Latham, George Smith, Matt Giteau, Rocky Elsom (back now but may go again after WC), etc. I bet the Kiwis wouldn’t mind seeing their home-grown talent stay. They could then have enough depth for 3 or more professional leagues in NZ!

  • Mark

    Completely agree with Dan Goodrich.

    Disagree with Julie on a couple of points.
    Are you inferring that an English player at the age of 16 can forsee a foreigner in their own prospective league in NZ for example at the same age grade and ascertain that that person may have English ties and take their future place in an England side, surely impossible? If not surely if they retire from the sport due to knowing about a foreign English qualified superior player and they throw in the towel then surely a question of their integrity, actual ability and lack of competitive mentality should come into play?
    I think the question of an example to youth is a red herring, you will either strive for pro rugby at 16 or you wont…An Aussie friend of mine was determined to improve, this was after a Fijian lote Tuquiri steamrollered him in league. He did not once throw the towel in because Lote “would steal his Aussie place”…

    You make a valid point on Allen though.

    Also we must be careful going down using the “born” method. Simon Shaw was born in Nairobi…

    We must be careful calling these players cast offs from the NZ system. It makes them sound like poor players and puts spin in favour of English only talent, if the Kiwi is selected over a better English player for the English side, key word being better… I will take umbrage. I personally would not question my ability being a cast off from a backrow of So’ialo, Collins and McCaw….

    Excuse the rant…

  • Realist

    The RFU can’t win- if they do nothing then people get angry about picking players from abroad, if they ban playing abroad they restrict their players, prevent new waves of young talent coming through, annoy other nations for allowing the reverse and all in all suffer. I like the idea of a universal salary cap, but implementing it, and deciding on its limits, could be a problem- the French will want it high so they can recruit big-money names, but this will force smaller clubs to stretch themselves unsustainably.
    As for the issue about foreigners playing for England, this is tied in but separate, and should be dealt with separately- Allen not getting picked is just due to Johnson’s preferences, and while I would welcome a player of his talent in the England lineup (although a Leicester 9-12 or 13 is not a prospect I relish!), it is not really an issue to be discussed on this topic. Johnson of course wants to pick the best squad available, and if this allows the likes of Flutey and Tuilagi in then so much the better for him.

  • Nathaniel John

    The only way to stop players leaving is for the IRB to step in and introduce a universal, international salary cap.

    Professional rugby is a short career, but unlike footballers, rugby players tend to have studied at university, and are ready for a post-rugby career. For example, Wales centre Jamie Roberts is currently studying to qualify as a doctor.

    What we really don’t want is rugby to become a blood relative of the round-ball game, where money has effectively created a huge gap between grassroots and professional level.

    Rugby is a game based on tradition. Why break that now?

  • smockford

    I know England are operating under current IRB rules by picking the likes of Flutey and Hape – but perhaps that means the rules need to be changed. Is three years living in England or an English grandparent really enough to qualify some to play for the country? Will they feel the same pride and passion in the national jersey as someone who has grown up here? Waldrom has only just discovered that his grandmother was English so how interested in the country can he be?
    It’s not just England, either. I think it’s something that needs to be looked at globally because before long we’ll have international teams that are made up of foreigners rather than home-grown players and the sense of unity and age-old rivalries will disappear.

  • Julie Millar

    This situation is just getting out of hand as soon we will have a “England” team full of foreigners as so what they are eligible to play on residency!
    To me Anthony Allen is prime example as hes playing brilliantly so why have Hape and Flutey when we have our home grown player
    So if the standard isnt good for England rugby then something should be done at grass roots level rugby and through the Academies
    You have young players going through England at u16s levels and above who are desperate to play for their Country and would be very proud to wear the England shirt but why bother aspiring as if you arent good enough we will replace you with a foreigner who is better but why are they better?
    They should at least have been living here since childhood if not born here
    As there is so much young talent out there…look for it and encourage them and not dismiss them
    Now when I watch England players and the likes of Hape play I want him to fail and to the detriment of England Rugby which is sad

  • Rebecca White

    This scenario has been going on for too long. Something needs to be done to give born and bred English players the will to stay playing over here and, those that are good enough, should be selected for their country. It’s appalling the way England are selecting anyone at all to represent us. It isn’t as if those players are all better than the Englishmen they are pushing out of contention, it’s ridiculous and I think it’s having an adverse effect on many players, who are really wondering why they are bothering. It will be harsh on those players from abroad who are really doing nothing wrong in terms of the rules, but we need to select only those who do have English parentage or who are born here in the future. International Rugby is becoming a free for all, it’s a joke. If something isn’t done soon, we might as well scrap national teams and just let the players move from team to team, as they see fit !!!

  • Dan Goodrich

    English players should be able to ply their trade in France, why not? The money is big and careers are short. It’s not like the SANZAR nations where playing overseas means days of travelling to return for international duty. Of course we all want to see the best english players playing in England but it must be hard for players who have to think about their life after rugby having to make the choice between caps and coins. It can even benefit some players playing over seas, Jonny Wilkinson for example, surely he is playing some of the nest rugby of his career in Frence!?
    Get rid of or increase the salary cap, that way there is no excuses for English players to go to France. Did I hear yesterday that Toulouse spend 39 million euros in salaries? Granted that may include all staff, but how can English clubs compete?

    As for England bringing in players that where born over seas, why shouldn’t they? If a player is eligable and good enough why wouldn’t you? NZ and Aus have done it with Samoan’s, Tongan’s and Fijian’s for years Loti Tuqiri? Jerry Collins? Will Genia is from PNG. England should utilise the best available players! Thomas Waldrom is a great player and would push Easter, everyone is a winner? People will soon forget he’s a plastic pom if he starts putting in performances in the white of England. Which other young No.8’s could realicticly cut it at interntaional level? Jordan Crane, not with recent form, Dowson should of had an opportunity but is now getting on a bit. Mind you Waldrom is 28ish?

    It’s tough one… More money for English clubs = no excuses to go to France! And if players can play for England and are good enough, do it!

  • Peter Cook

    How galling must it be for players like Luke Narraway who have been on form for the past few months and hoping for a WC call-up, to have Waldrom suddenly “find” an English granny and be put straight to the top of the pecking order?

    If there is a case for foreign born players to be eligible, it should only be if they came to this country when a youngster and have played their whole career here.