English Rugby
Palmer views positives in Stade move
Huw Baines
March 24, 2009
England lock Tom Palmer poses for the Right to Play Charity, March 23, 2009
England lock Tom Palmer will soon be back in action after a long injury © Richard Wearne/Raw Images

It's been an interesting few months for Wasps lock Tom Palmer. After discovering that he would miss England's Six Nations campaign through injury, he became the subject of intense media speculation after he announced, along with team-mate James Haskell, that he would be leaving Wycombe for France next season, more specifically Paris and the mighty Stade Francais.

A period of uproar in the English game ensued. Both the media and the England setup questioned the impact that this move will have on the players' England careers and also whether it would signal a surge of English talent leaving for French shores, where the clubs are not bound by a salary cap as in the Guinness Premiership.

Palmer, who has 13 England caps, views the move as a positive however.

"I've always wanted to play in France and when the option came to go to a very good club like Stade that was something I'd thought about," Palmer told Scrum.com. "The contract they'd offered me was also a lot better than the one I'd been offered at Wasps, so that obviously was a big factor as well. It was a combination of being something that I've wanted to do and something that I think will improve me as a person and broaden my horizons.

"I think also I can learn a lot playing in a different league. Different players, different style of rugby, there are a lot of positive reasons for the move. I think it'll be very physical, rough and tough. Every time you go to play in France you get a really tough game and it'll be like that week in week out."

Palmer, along with Haskell and fellow Wasps player Riki Flutey, who has signed for Brive, believes that his England chances will not be affected by the move. He maintained constant contact with Martin Johnson and his coaching staff during contract negotiations, keeping them abreast of his thoughts and plans for the future.

"I spoke with the England coaches all the way through the decision making process and kept them informed of what I was thinking," he said. "I asked their opinions as well so they were very up-to-date with what I was going to do. To be honest I don't think it'll an issue with England at all. If Martin Johnson thinks I'm playing well he'll pick me, if he doesn't then he won't, simple as that really.

"You've got to look at every opportunity to improve yourself, and I'm sure I'll be able to at Stade. If I do that it'll be good for me and good for England."

The media reaction to the transfers hit a crescendo very quickly, with many speculating that the free-spending French league could also soon pry leading lights such as Jonny Wilkinson out of the English game.

"I think it was an easy story," said Palmer. "It was easy because there were three guys announced in one day, all from the same club and all in the England squad. It's very easy to do a bit of scare-mongering and make up a lot of stories along those lines, thinking about the worst things that could happen rather than thinking about the positives."

One positive for England is that Palmer will soon be back in action for Wasps, with a likely return coming against Newcastle on April 5, and putting his hand up for selection for England on their summer tour to Argentina, which kicks off with a Test at Old Trafford in Manchester on June 6.

"I hope I'll be involved in that. I'll definitely be fit by then and if I get selected then great," he said. "It's been very frustrating. I got injured during the autumn and cam back and got injured again, missing the Six Nations. I've missed the majority of the Wasps season and the England stuff, so it's been very disappointing for me."

After his potential return to action for England this summer Palmer is hoping to put in some hours for the Right to Play charity, potentially taking coaching sessions in Africa or representing them as an ambassador on a challenge.

"They're doing a lot of great work in the third world," he said. "I'm hoping I'll be able to get out and do something in the field for them if time allows. I'd love to be able to go out to a project and get involved in the coaching that they do out there. Maybe doing rafting down the Zambeze River, hopefully there will be some challenge this summer that I'll be able to be a part of."

Tom Palmer was speaking ahead of Right To Play day on March 25th, a fundraising initiative from the international children's charity encouraging everyone who participates in sporting activity to donate £1 to create sport and play opportunities for disadvantaged children around the world. Right To Play are the official charity of British University Sport, to learn more visit www.righttoplay.org.uk or to donate text PLAY to 82010

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