The Reuters global sports blog
English rugby officials are not happy about leading players heading for the riches of France and, week by week, are ratcheting up the pressure on those heading across the Channel.
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) seems not to be much interested in any benefits that might be accrued by players developing their game in a new environment – they want total control.
The RFU said on Thursday that anyone unable to guarantee his availability for England’s 2010 tour to Australia will be left out of Martin Johnson’s elite player squad, while anyone not available for all training sessions will not be picked.
The alarm bells started to sound when Wasps trip James Haskell, Riki Flutey and Tom Palmer announced that they would be moving to French clubs next season. Iain Balshaw joined them this week while Jonny Wilkinson’s big-money move to Toulon is the worst-kept secret in the game.
England’s recovery was always on the cards International rugby is a small pond with the same big fish taking it in turns to swim at the top. The bonus for those lurking just below, and even for the minnows in the depths, is that unlike in many other major sports they never disappear into the silt completely.
So for England, during Martin Johnson’s struggles, there was always going to be light at the end of the tunnel, though even the World Cup winning-captain must have been shaken by the speed his team finally rushed towards it.
Wales fans are getting a bit ahead of themselves if they are looking towards a final-day Six Nations grand slam showdown with Ireland – there is the little matter of France in Paris to deal with first.Wales are on form and chasing a second successive grand slam. France are all over the place and coach Marc Lievremont has thrown fans another curve ball with his latest eccentric selections.
But the former flanker encapsulated French rugby in a sentence when he said this week that, depending on Friday night’s result, he and his coaches will be judged either as idiots or geniuses.