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Sir Clive Woodward demands that ‘ridiculous’ England ruling is axed to ‘protect Test rugby’

Rugby World Cup-winning head coach Sir Clive Woodward believes that the Rugby Football Union (RFU) must allow foreign-based players to feature for the Red Rose.


Only Premiership players are currently eligible to be called up to Steve Borthwick’s team; this means that players like Jack Willis, Henry Arundell, and Sam Simmonds are not.

These regulations are in place to safeguard local competition, maintain teams’ competitiveness in Europe, and increase the league’s appeal to sponsors and supporters.

But since many of the clubs are having financial difficulties—as the collapse of the London Irish, Worcester Warriors, and Wasps shows—more and more talented English players are leaving the Premiership.

The Henry Arundell case

This includes Arundell, who chose to sign a new two-year contract with Racing 92 rather than go back to England. which proved to be a significant hammer blow for the RFU.

“The ridiculous RFU ruling that players who play for clubs abroad can’t also represent England would not have been in place if I was head coach. Or, if it had, I would have stepped down. There are some things in rugby that should be sacrosanct and protected at all costs,” Woodward wrote in the Daily Mail.

The person in charge of the national team must be able to select the top players who meet the requirements to play in England. That ought to be unchangeable. Although Borthwick is the person in that role, he is unable to do so at this time.

“It is incredibly mistaken to believe that the foreign ruling will safeguard Premiership clubs while strengthening the national side. Three Premiership teams have entered administration, and England is far from rising to the top of the international rankings.

The fact that Rundell, the best young player in England, isn’t playing at Twickenham goes against the whole essence of international rugby.

The RFU are attempting to stave off a further exodus by introducing ‘hybrid contracts’, which gives the clubs a financial reward for allowing England to have a greater control of their players.

However, Woodward is against the plan and thinks it shows signs of “panic” on the part of the governing body.

“The RFU plans to introduce new hybrid contracts for the top 25 players in the nation for the 2024–2025 season. The goal of the move is to prevent England’s finest players from leaving the country, but he stated, “I believe it reflects flawed thinking and the lack of a coordinated approach.”

“Central contracts, or any variation thereof, ought to be superfluous. They are a desperate response to the financial crisis facing the Premiership. They are surefire ways to go wrong.

“It is obvious that those who put them in place have never managed a successful sports team. It puts Borthwick in a very challenging situation.

Comeback of a legendary

The former England manager continues to criticize the governing body, saying that it is more reactive than proactive.

Therefore, the 67-year-old believes that the best course of action is to resurrect some of the players from the winning England squad of 2003, with Martin Johnson, the team’s captain, leading the pack.

“I organized a get-together last month to commemorate the 20 years since England’s World Cup victory in 2003. He recollected, “The room was filled with some of the biggest personalities in rugby, all of them are intelligent, seasoned, really knowledgable, and passionate people.

“It got me thinking. Why isn’t Martin Johnson on the RFU board? Why aren’t guys like Will Greenwood and Matt Dawson involved in the game? Apart from Bill Sweeney as chief executive, those on the RFU board operate in the shadows. Who are they and what do they do?

“The RFU needs tough, rugby-experienced individuals who will speak out on major concerns in front of the media, fans, and clubs. Although there are many good people in the RFU, its top brass are reactive rather than proactive.

Owen Farrell’s decision to resign from England duty would not have occurred if the RFU had hired a player with Johnson’s level of rugby gravitas.

“Johnson would have stood in front of the public and the media and told them that it was not acceptable for England fans to jeer Farrell. He would have taken care of the issue right away.

“That didn’t happen. Instead, we had the usual platitudes from the RFU after the horse had bolted and the result is English rugby has lost its captain and talisman for the foreseeable future.”

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