Limited availability: Stuart Lancaster said that he had spoken with England's top players in France

by Ben Coles

ENGLISH PLAYERS currently in France are unlikely to be selected for the upcoming November Internationals, according to Stuart Lancaster.

The England head coach was speaking on the BBC 5 Live along with Andy Farrell, Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt discussing England’s performance in South Africa and their preparations for the upcoming November Internationals and beyond.

Discussing the possibility of Steffon Armitage and his brother Delon turning out for England this Autumn, Lancaster stated that both players would be unavailable for the upcoming England training camp at the end of October, due to the dates falling outside of the IRB windows for international call-ups.

“Toulon were in the Top 14 Final the day that we took on South Africa in the 1st Test. It creates problems, so although you would never say never, equally when you have got people like Chris Robshaw playing pretty well at openside as far as I can see, it’s always going to be harder for a player who is playing in France.”

When the point was put to Lancaster that Steffon Armitage was voted the Top 14 Player of the Year by Midi Olympique last season, he responded by saying that Robshaw was voted the best player in England.

“Players in France are not out of the reckoning, but they are making it much harder for themselves. I spoke to Steffon before we went on tour and to Delon (Armitage), Luke Narraway and Nick Kennedy before they went to France and both they and I know the situation.”

The coaching team were also asked about the availability of Nick Easter and Danny Cipriani, two internationals who have fallen off the England radar but are eager to be involved. Easter impressed during Harlequins run to the Aviva Premiership title last season and performed brilliantly against Biarritz in the Heineken Cup, whilst Cipriani’s new start at Sale has stuttered apart from a promising 30 minute cameo last weekend.

“I’m a big Nick Easter fan,” said Graham Rowntree. “We are well aware of his form, but since this coaching team was came together we decided to look a bit younger with Ben Morgan and Phil Dowson and we’re happy with their development. But the door is not closed for Nick, he knows that. We met him recently and told him that, but the problem with our squad is we can only pick players every six months so unless there is an injury, we can’t bring Nick in. If there is an injury, he will be one of the names we will consider.”

On Cipriani, who is not in either the Senior or Saxons squads, Lancaster said that he had been in contact with Cipriani during his time in Australia and was pleased with his impact in Sale’s win over Cardiff last weekend.

“His challenge is to start and play well for Sale, and if he does that on a consistent basis then he will be considered along with everybody else.”

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