"Temporary Lifting of Restrictions" Overseas Players 'Should' be Eligible for England Selection Says RPA - Ruck

“Temporary Lifting of Restrictions” Overseas Players ‘Should’ be Eligible for England Selection Says RPA

The Rugby Players Association have discussed that there should be a ‘temporary lifting of restrictions’, for overseas based England players. This would hopefully see the likes of Jack Willis maintain their position in the England team, ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Try Celebrations for Jack Willis of England as he goes over for a try during the Six Nations Match between England and Italy at Twickenham, London on 12 Feb 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

Willis currently plays for French giants Toulouse, and is looking on track to win the Top 14 and Heineken Champions Cup double. The 26-year-old is currently eligible for England under ‘exceptional circumstances’, as he was forced to depart the Premiership after the financial collapse of Wasps.

However, Willis has recently signed a three year contract extension with Toulouse, which may have put his England career in jeopardy. RPA General Secretary Christian Day highlighted the potential lifting of restrictions, which should remain in place until the current £5million Premiership salary cap rises to £6.4million in 2024-25.

Jack Willis of England during the England Rugby Captains Run ahead of the Six Nations Match between Wales and England at Principality Stadium, London on 24 Feb 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

Speaking with Sky Sports, Day said; If the cap continues to be suppressed then we will continue to say, the players can’t get fair value in this country,”

“For people like Jack Willis, and there are one or two others who can’t get fair value in this country at the moment, primarily because the cap’s suppressed, we think they should be able to go and be selected. We think that should exist next year as well.”

Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 7 caps) during England Rugby training session at The Lensbury Hotel, Teddington, London on 28 Sept 2021. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

Aside from Willis, there are a significant amount of England stars heading to France at the end of the Gallagher Premiership season. Exeter Chiefs duo Sam Simmonds and Luke Cowan-Dickie are heading to Montpellier, and Chiefs winger Jack Nowell has been strongly linked with a move to La Rochelle.

Another key factor in the conversation is how England selected players are taking too much time away from their clubs. This is becoming a major issue amongst the RPA, with the Premiership’s marquee players making too few many appearances for their domestic teams. Day continued to discuss this.

Exeter Chiefs player Luke Cowan-Dickie during the warm up before Gallagher Premiership Match between Wasps and Exeter Chiefs at the Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry on October 16th – PHOTO: Steve Bond/PPAUK

 “There are other things that also play into it, the availability of England players is becoming a big issue. If players are unavailable for 10 games a year, it diminishes their own value with their club.

“As much as they’re one of the best players, their club instead sees value in other players and we need to fix that. Clubs should be fighting for England players, not saying they get better value out of someone else.”

Harlequins and England star Marcus Smith added to this conversation recently, as reports speculated about his potential move away from the Premiership. The fly half spoke about the need for the RFU and the Premiership clubs to come up with a better solution regarding player selection.

Marcus Smith of England during the Autumn International Series match between England and New Zealand at Twickenham, London on 19 November 2022 (Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK)

“I’m only able to play for him (Steve Borthwick) because of Harlequins. I think it’s ironic isn’t it, that you play well for your club, and then you go away (with England) and you miss more games.

“And therefore, we have less of a chance to influence the club’s performance in the league and on the training field as well, which is important, especially during the long season.

Ben Youngs of England, Marcus Smith of England and Owen Farrell, Captian of England sing the national anthem ahead of the Autumn International Series match between England and Japan at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on Saturday 12th November 2022 | Photo: James Fearn/PPAUK.

“Yeah, I think that there’s definitely amendments that can be made in terms of that. Speaking to other players across the league, they’re all desperate to play for their club, as well as England. So I think if there’s a compromise that can be made with both parties. I think it will benefit not just the league, I think the individual as well, because there’ll be much happier in themselves.

“There’ll be able to make a proper difference for their club, and hopefully get more rhythm in their game that allows them to play better for their country.”