RFU turn their back on rugby league
August 29, 2008
Rob Andrew insists the Rugby Football Union will no longer bankroll expensive raids into rugby league.
Efforts to turn some of league's biggest names into union stars have failed dismally with Andy Farrell, Henry Paul and Chev Walker among the flops that have cost the RFU dear.
Lions and England star Jason Robinson was a rare success story and Andrew, Twickenham's director of elite rugby, admits big-money cross-code moves are off the agenda.
''We've made it very clear that our policy is not to recruit league players,'' he said.
''That's because of the structure in terms of how we're funding the clubs and the top end of the game.
''It would have to be an extraordinary situation for (England manager) Martin Johnson to come to us recommending a league player and for us to sign him.
''But if there was a player like that then it's very likely that he would not already have been signed by a Gloucester or Bath.
''That's because these players are being shifted around the marketplace the whole time.''
Andrew's biggest priority is overseeing the development of England-qualified players to guarantee a steady flow from junior level to Johnson's senior squad.
The academy system is the biggest production line of young talent but Andrew believes the encroachment of agents is muddying the waters.
''We do get players who make mistakes in terms of where they move and when they move. We have to deal with agents in the game now,'' he said.
''We're not in the same league as football but the agents are starting to have quite a big influence in where they see players going.
''As a union we're in quite a difficult position to be advising players who are under contract to their clubs as to where they should or shouldn't go.
''Players do ask for advice - clearly those who are English and want to play for England.
''There is enormous desire for these guys coming through the system to play for England.
''They can affect that career by making a bad decision somewhere down the line.''