Johnson has no sympathy for Armitage, Abendanon
ESPN Staff
May 13, 2015
Steffon Armitage

World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson has criticised Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon for not showing enough desire to warrant an England call-up.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster will announce England's 45-man training squad for the 2015 World Cup on May 20, but players based outside England - like Toulon's Armitage and Clermont's Abendanon - are only eligible for selection in "exceptional circumstances".

And Johnson believes that if either player wanted to make Lancaster's squad, they would have forced a move to the Aviva Premiership this season.

"Ultimately guys know the rules," Johnson said.

"Whether it's exceptional circumstances or not it doesn't matter. They knew the situation.

"If they wanted to put themselves in a situation to play for England - like all the guys in England are doing - then come over and play here. It's as simple as that."

Johnson's view is supported by Lawrence Dallaglio, a key lieutenant in England's World Cup success almost 12 years ago.

Dallaglio said: "I truly believe the best rugby players in this country should play in the country.

"The rules are very simple, they're very clear. I think they're the right rules and I don't think they should be broken."

France-based players Armitage and Abendanon, winners of the past two European Player of the Year awards, are viewed as major contenders for the squad in some quarters, given their impressive European Champions Cup and Top 14 form this term.

Lancaster, who succeeded Johnson as England manager, will only select the pair if he decides to invoke the "exceptional circumstances" criteria.

Johnson was England team manager for three-and-a-half years before resigning in November 2011 in ignominy after an embarrassing World Cup campaign in New Zealand, blighted by off-field indiscipline.

Players playing abroad caused issues prior to the implementation of the rule, which was formalised by the Rugby Football Union in 2010 and came into effect after the 2011 World Cup.

"When I was doing the England job we had guys go [abroad] before the rule was in there. It created issues, let's be honest," Johnson added.

"It created issues for us, it created a lot of issues for the players at times and was difficult. "I can understand on a number of levels why the rule is there. Rightly or wrongly, disagree with it or not.

"If you're a player and you want to play for England you know what to do."

Dallaglio believes Armitage should have approached Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal if he wanted to play for England.

A short-term move to Bath, which would have allowed the former London Irish back-row to play for England, collapsed last autumn.

Dallaglio added: "I don't honestly believe the best place for an English international rugby player is down in the south of France. I really don't.

"The players who went there went there because they weren't good enough to get in the England team.

"They are now playing at a level of rugby that is perhaps good enough - that depends what side you sit on."

© ESPN Staff

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