MX23RW : Wednesday, January 23 20:50:43

Martin Johnson: 'Overseas players know the rules'

Former England captain and head coach Martin Johnson backs the rule not to select players based overseas for the World Cup.

Former England captain and head coach Martin Johnson has shown little sympathy to overseas players looking to earn a place in Stuart Lancaster's World Cup squad.

A number of England's top players currently play their club rugby in France and, as a result, are ineligible to feature for their country apart from in "exceptional circumstances".

The last three European players of the year have been Englishmen playing in France, and the clamour for the likes of Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon to be included has increased as a result.

However, Johnson, who was in charge when the rule was formalised but not enforced in the build-up to the 2011 World Cup, believes that the overseas players have made their decision not to play for their country by moving to France.

"Ultimately guys know the rules. If they want to come and play for England they'd be an England player. 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 told PA Sport.

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

"The number one criteria for any rugby player playing for any rugby team anywhere in the world is you desperately want to come and play. If you desperately want to come and play, then you could've got yourself over here for this year to get yourself in a World Cup."

World Cup-winning captain Johnson enjoyed a stellar career with England and club side Leicester Tigers, but he insists that the top players should have the desire to play at the very highest level.

"I loved playing club rugby. Winning European Cups is fantastic and it's a big part of what you do, but ultimately if you're good enough you want to have the best opportunity to play for your country and play in the biggest games of all, which are Test matches and World Cups," he added.

"If you don't get yourself in England, rightly or wrongly, you're not going to get the chance. If they really wanted to come and play, they'd be here doing it. It comes back to that initial criteria - you want guys who are desperate to come and play.

"If you're desperate to come and play, then get yourself in England. There's any number of calls you could make on picking and not picking in 'exceptional circumstances'. They've got a rule in place, it's pretty clear, been there for quite a long time."

Lancaster will pick his 45-man training squad for the World Cup on home soil on May 20.


Click here for more stories about Martin Johnson

Click here for more stories about England

Share this article now:
Toulon's flanker Steffon Armitage celebrates after scoring a try despite a tackle by Llanelli Scarlets' wing Michael Tagicakibau during the European Rugby Champions Cup match between Toulon and Llanelli Scarlets at the Mayol stadium in Toulon, southeaster
Read Next:
Corry: 'Don't call up Armitage'
>

Loading ...

Failed to load data.

Loading ...

Failed to load data.

Select and display your favourite team's news and scores in this panel

Loading ...

Failed to load data.

Loading ...

Failed to load data.

Select and display your favourite team's news and scores in this panel

Subscribe to our Newsletter


Transfer Talk Daily
Match previews - twice weekly
Morning Briefing (7am UTC)
Ultra close-up image of Kevin De Bruyne [NOT FOR USE IN ARTICLES]Get the latest transfer news, match previews and news direct to your inbox!

Loading ...

Failed to load data.

Loading ...

Failed to load data.

Select and display your favourite team's news and scores in this panel
Login, I already have my ad-free pass
Log in to customise Sports Mole
Buy ad-free access (show me the options)
Buy monthly ad-free access for £1.20/month
Buy yearly ad-free access for £12 (2 months free)
Settings - Logout - Manage your account
Settings - Logout - Manage your account