English Rugby
RFU urges players to stay in England
February 25, 2009

The RFU's management board has met in order to discuss the impact of England international players signing contracts with foreign clubs on the English domestic game.

Following the news that Wasps trio Riki Flutey, James Haskell and Tom Palmer would all be taking up contracts in France next season the RFU has issued a statement saying that they believed that English players should play in England in order to safeguard the competitive nature of the Premiership and build the strength of the national side.

The RFU laid out several points that it believes vital to the success of the new EPS agreement co-signed with Premier Rugby, the umbrealla organisation responsible for the affairs of the twelve Premiership clubs, a decision backed by England manager Martin Johnson.

"I am pleased that the RFU has drawn up a clear policy on these matters so that players know where they stand," he said. "The benefits of being in the EPS programme for players are significant and not being in that structure will, inevitably, affect individual players' selection chances. I am particularly concerned to see that we are able to take the strongest squad on tour each summer as we develop towards the World Cup in 2011."

Rob Andrew, England's elite director of rugby, echoed Johnson's sentiments and also put forward his belief that the EPS agreement was already helping England's players development.

"Although we are only half way through the first season of the new agreement, the early indications are that the new EPS programmes are delivering real improvements to EPS players," he said. "We are keen to ensure that these benefits are not diluted going forward for the benefit of both players and England. We accept that there will always be some players who wish to develop their careers overseas and we are now establishing the framework as to how such moves could be made whilst still being a member of the EPS programme"

The RFU's statement:

The Board were unanimous in their view that it was in the best interests of the England Team and the Guinness Premiership that the best England players should play in the Premiership for the following reasons:

  • It would enable full implementation of all elements of the EPS programme package in the new RFU/PRL agreement;

  • It would facilitate regular opportunities for the England Team manager and his coaching team to watch Senior EPS players and to engage with them and their club coaches;

  • Maintain the competitiveness of Guinness Premiership clubs in the Heineken Cup;

  • Continue to build on the success, strength and attractiveness of the Guinness Premiership;

    The current arrangements are that all EPS players sign a tripartite contract with the RFU and the player's club. This contract sets out the details of the EPS programme and includes the RFU match fee and IP rights payments to the player for EPS and international duty. Should Senior EPS players contract to play their rugby overseas the RFU will expect the following provisions to be included in their new contracts with their overseas employers for them to remain in or be included in the Senior EPS:

  • Release to England for all EPS training, preparation and profiling days as set out in the RFU/PRL agreement;

  • Release to England for World Cup preparation as set out in the RFU/PRL agreement;

  • Release for all international periods including 'blocking weeks' and 'fallow weeks' and the England summer tour;

  • The agreed 'rest weekends' in the pre-Autumn and pre-Six Nations International periods to be honoured;

  • A maximum game limit of 32 games per year to be agreed;

  • 'No play' provision within 5 days of a match to be agreed;

  • Minimum 10 week 'off-season' to be agreed;

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