RFU defend policy of releasing players
February 1, 2009
Ryan's under-strength side managed to overhaul the Exiles to climb back to the Premiership summit © Getty Images
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) have clarified the situation regarding the release of players from the senior Elite Player Squad following concerns expressed by Gloucester coach Dean Ryan.
Gloucester went top of the Premiership following a bruising 23-21 victory over London Irish at Kingsholm on Saturday and Ryan was full of praise for his under-strength side that had been stripped of England players Mike Tindall, Olly Morgan and Luke Narraway.
In contrast London Irish had been bolstered by the return of internationals Delon Armitage and Nick Kennedy having been released by England manager Martin Johnson to improve their match fitness.
Should his players not make England's starting 22 for their Six Nations opener with Italy next weekend, Ryan told reporters he would question why they were not released for the crucial Premiership match-up with their title-rivals.
"I would have a big issue with that,'' Ryan said. "It would open up a can of worms and call into question the integrity of the competition.''
A statement from the RFU said, "Under the new RFU/PRL agreement, the RFU is required to select a provisional 22-man England squad on the Tuesday prior to the week of each Test match. Those players not selected and not required to cover for any injury concerns the England Team Manager may have are required to be released back to their clubs the following Tuesday (ie. The Tuesday of each Test week).
"A provisional 22-man squad was selected last Tuesday (January 27). The England Team Manager has the right to retain players if there are injury concerns or release players to play for their clubs when it is in a player's interest to have more game time. The clubs are aware that all 32 of the senior EPS may be away for the whole of this period.
"The same provisions apply in 'fallow' weeks during the Six Nations. All 32 senior EPS players will be unavailable for their clubs in the 'fallow' weeks, unless released to play at the discretion of the England Team Manager. This weekend the RFU voluntarily released three EPS players for club duty whom it felt would benefit from further game time (Delon Armitage, Nick Kennedy and Mathew Tait).
"This is one of the core principles of the new RFU/PRL agreement and one of the main reasons the agreement sets out to reduce the overlaps between international rugby and the Guinness Premiership. The recent proposals to extend the Premiership by six rounds would only lead to further dispute between the England team management and the club Directors of Rugby and is something that will be resisted by the RFU."
The confusion around the issue was intensified as this weekend was originally a spare round on the fixture schedule to be used for re-arranged games.