Sunday 18 February 2018

Touchlines: 'Champagne' Hape and Riki 'Flighty' point the way

THE English Rugby Union's decision to not allow players based overseas after the World Cup to be selected for the national side has provoked a mixed response in France, where England internationals such as Jonny Wilkinson, James Haskell, Iain Balshaw and Magnus Lund currently draw hefty wages.

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal, busy trying to lure All Blacks sensation Sonny Bill Williams back to Toulon on a post-World Cup deal, claimed to be unconcerned by the development. Toulon have the likes of Wilkinson, Paul Sackey and Tom May on their books and Boudjellal is convinced England will continue to select their best players, regardless of where they are playing.

"It isn't really a problem because they (the English RFU) specify that this decision will be applied, except in exceptional circumstances," pointed out Boudjellal.

However, Max Guazzini, his counterpart at Stade Francais, who pays the wages of Haskell and Tom Palmer was furious.

"I won't take any more English players," ranted Guazzini.

"This is the protectionist side of the English coming out."

It is a stance that harks back to England's historical slant towards splendid isolation but, as long as they keep logging into and indulge the Fluteys, Fouries, Hartleys and Hapes of the rugby world, they should muddle through.

After all, it's working for them in cricket, with England's team of Saffers and Paddies running riot Down Under. HF

Irish Independent

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