Tom Youngs speaks out against Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon being picked for England
Tom Youngs is the first England player to speak up about possibility of overseas-based players being brought into Stuart Lancaster’s World Cup training squad with the increasingly strong possibility of England invoking the “exceptional circumstances” clause to select Steffon Armitage, the Toulon flanker, and Nick Abendanon, the Clermont full back. The RFU brought in the policy in 2011 to stop the selection of overseas based players to stem the talent drain from the Premiership with the prospect of representing England proving a greater lure than the higher wages available in the cash-rich Top 14. Since then, players such as Dylan Hartley, the Northampton hooker, have rejected lucrative deals because of that stance while those who have left like Armitage, Abendanon and Toby Flood, the Toulouse fly half, only departed once they fell down the England pecking order.
As a hooker, Youngs would not be affected by either Armitage or Abendanon possible selection, but he says that there would be a “wider impact” on the team culture carefully fostered by Lancaster to consider.“Over the last few years, the graft you have done to get into the England squad and then for someone to come from abroad to take your spot you would be pretty gutted,” Youngs said.“I don’t know how well it would go down with the whole team. It is not just the individual affected, but it is the other guys who might look upon that and might not agree with it. The whole thing about playing for England, it still comes down to a player’s decision whether to go abroad or not. No one is forced across there. It comes down to your personal decision whether you want to do something different and experience a different lifestyle then that’s the decision you make by going across there, but then you jeopardize your England place.”
A top rugby tipster has suggested it would be wrong, as a lot of people will have made a lot of sacrifices and turned down a lot of money to stay and play in the UK. There lies the real difficulty for Lancaster’s decision, before announcing his 45-man training squad next month. As a selector he runs the risk of upsetting the unity within his squad as well as incurring the wrath of the clubs who he has worked so hard to foster good relations with or ignore the claims of Armitage, the European Player of the Year, and Abendanon, who was sensational in Clermont’s quarter-final victory against Northampton.
A sports betting expert knows that if this selection happens, it will set a precedent and the future could hold some difficult times for English rugby as players will leave caring more about money they might earn, rather than for their country.