England head coach Steve Borthwick has urged the Rugby Football Union to rethink its overseas selection policy so he can pick his strongest team.
Borthwick is currently unable to select players who are based abroad unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Toulouse flanker Jack Willis is deemed an exception after he moved to the Top 14 side following Wasps’ collapse.
Sam Simmonds, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marchant and David Ribbans are joining French clubs after the 2023 World Cup.
It is thought other England players will follow their international team-mates to pursue more lucrative deals in France or Japan.
Premiership clubs agreed to cut the salary cap by £1.4m to £5m in the summer of 2020 amid the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, although it is set to return to £6.4m in 2024. The salary cap in the Top 14 is currently £8.5m.
“What we are faced with here are some extreme circumstances,” said Borthwick. “There are discussions ongoing about what this means and what the implications are going forward. It’s about the players’ livelihoods and careers as well.
“From my point of view I want to make sure we are able to select the greatest number of players possible. And the best players possible. Those discussions are only at their starting point and clearly my focus is on the Six Nations.
“But do I want to make sure we have an England team where we have the best players available to us? Yes.”
Saturday’s Six Nations game with Wales had been in doubt with Welsh players threatening not to play amid a dispute with their rugby bosses over contracts.
With the game now going ahead, one of the changes agreed by the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) was to reduce the minimum number of Test caps for overseas players to be eligible for selection from 60 to 25.
Rugby is facing a fight for its very existence from financial issues to new tackle laws and a declining number of grassroots players.
However, despite the off-field issues, which have seen Premiership clubs Wasps and Worcester fold, the opening two rounds of this year’s Six Nations have produced some thrilling rugby.
Borthwick added: “We know there are issues in rugby right now. Everyone knows it’s been a challenging situation for rugby in this part of the world.
“We’ve seen two clubs no longer playing Premiership rugby this season. So we need to make sure those things are right.
“I and all our players sympathise wholeheartedly with what the Welsh players have had to go through.
“Nobody should have to go through the level of uncertainty they have had.
“With that in mind, I think this game is exactly what we need. We want these big exciting games that are full of passion and allow us to concentrate on the rugby.”
Source – BBC Sports
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