With some internationals having to take overseas contracts after the collapse of their club, is it time to relax the rules around England eligibility? Here's our latest debate


Should England players be available for Test selection if they play abroad?

YES, says the ex-England centre who’s an agent in France

“The 25-cap rule is not a bad option. Looking at the Welsh system, it seemed logical for them to let players go away and still play them for the national team. They are getting rid of their highest salaries and opening doors for younger guys to get more game time at their clubs.

“These are Test players who are getting more experience playing in a different championship and growing as people. I did it and it was better for me. At the age I went (31), I don’t think I became a better player but as a person it opened my horizons. I probably knew my time in an England shirt was drawing to end.

“Salary caps offloading some of the financial burden associated with having a top-class player is not a bad thing – look at what happened to Wasps, Worcester and London Irish. The top stars are huge earners and to not have to pick that bill up is the best of both worlds. The next guy, under a Dan Biggar from Wales for example, gets more games.

Should England players be available for Test selection if they play abroad?

England back-row Jack Willis plays for Toulouse following the collapse of his former club Wasps (Inpho)

“A cap limit regulation means the best young guys don’t go overseas and slightly older, experienced guys on big money can go and are still able to play for England. From an England perspective you have less control over the players in terms of when they play and training camps but these are older players. You would trust they have been in the system long enough to know what is expected of them.

“They know their bodies and someone of that calibre going into a French club would have a bit of clout to say ‘I am not doing that’ or ‘This is how I approach things’. Jonny Wilkinson did it at Toulon and he played for England. A younger guy needs to toe the line a bit.”

NO, says the director of rugby at Exeter Chiefs

“I’m the director of rugby of a Premiership team, so there is absolutely no way an England player should be allowed to be selected from outside England. No way at all.

“If the RFU want to stop players moving, there is a simple way of doing it – you put your hand in your pocket and pay. Basically what Steve Borthwick and the RFU are asking for there is for other people to pay the salary and for players to still be available. It’s a little bit like having your cake and eating it.

“I don’t mind saying this, players will know it themselves: if you want to go and earn your biggest salary that is fine but the lure to stay in England, and to play for England. You need to be playing English club rugby. There is an expectation that is how it should be.

Jack Nowell

Jack Nowell has ruled himself out of World Cup consideration as he makes the move to La Rochelle (Getty)

“I can understand Steve’s point. He wants to be able to select the best players he can. But we are limited currently by the salary cap and by the financial position in the Premiership, so if the RFU want to bridge the gap they need to bridge the gap.

“I think that is quite a simple expectation from the Premiership, rather than trying to create exceptions when people can go and take salaries abroad.

“I like Steve, and we get on well, but that is real poacher turned gamekeeper, isn’t it? If he was the head coach of Leicester he would be going, ‘There is absolutely no way there should be any form of dispensation for any player playing outside the Premiership’.”

Face-off: Should England players be available for Test selection if they play abroad? We want to know what YOU think. Email your views to rugbyworldletters@futurenet.com

This debate first appeared in the June 2023 issue of Rugby World