The former captain is in favour of picking your best players wherever they are playing

Former England captain Courtney Lawes thinks the RFU should ditch its overseas law to avoid “hurting themselves” by not picking the best players available.

Lawes, 35, retired from international rugby after winning 105 caps and helping England to third place at the 2023 Rugby World Cup. He will leave Northampton Saints after 17 years to play for Brive in the second tier of French rugby next season.

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The likes of Owen Farrell, Lewis Ludlam and Kyle Sinckler are also set to head across the channel while Henry Arundell, Jack Willis, David Ribbans and Joe Marchant all play in the Top 14 having been part of Steve Borthwick’s World Cup squad and therefore missed the recent Six Nations.

Lawes suggested that a similar system to Wales, where players with over 25 caps can move abroad and still be selected for their country, may be a possible solution to ensure England have the best players on the pitch.

When asked whether he was in favour of scrapping the rule that currently ensures all England players play in the Gallagher Premiership, Lawes said: “There’s pros and cons to both. We would lose some players, definitely, from the Prem, but it wouldn’t be as many as they think, I think. It’s not like France haven’t got pretty good rugby players there, and ones from all round the world that they can bring over.

“I think they could change the rules. Whether they will or not is another question. I think they probably should, because players go to France and become better players, and then you’re losing that talent from the English game.

“Ultimately, if England are going well the grass roots go well, and you’re bringing back in good players. It goes in a bit of a circle, but the main thing is you want England to go well and if your best players are playing abroad then you’re only hurting yourself.

“If you want to do that (bring in a cap limit), that’s a way of doing it. It’s a way of saying ‘if you want to go abroad, you can stay here, earn your stripes and then you can go and are still eligible.’ I don’t think that’s a terrible idea.”

Lawes overseas law

Courtney Lawes will leave Northampton Saints at the end of the season (Getty Images)

Lawes was at Saints when former Wales fly-half Dan Biggar joined the club and watched on first-hand as he improved by virtue of experiencing a different environment and testing himself in a new league.

“He definitely became a better player for it, and as we’ve seen some of our players will become better players abroad,” he added. “You’re wasting their talent if you’re not picking them.”

Aside from eligibility laws, Lawes believes the RFU and Premiership Rugby need to work more closely together to protect player welfare as, despite the league being reduced to ten teams, players like Maro Itoje – as raised by The Telegraph – are set to go well over the 30-game mark for the season having been involved in the the warm-up matches for the World Cup, the tournament itself, the entirety of the Six Nations and now the club run-in.

Lawes said: “You can’t go on like that, playing 30+ games a year and have any kind of longevity. Ireland have got a pretty good model, so let’s learn. As any business, and rugby is a business, you’ve got to learn lessons and from people doing it better elsewhere. I hope that the people at the top in England can do that.”

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