Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Andrew expecting more French unrest

Rob Andrew

Rob Andrew is bracing himself for more rows with French clubs over the release of James Haskell, Tom Palmer and Jonny Wilkinson for England duty during the RBS 6 Nations.

Last year Max Guazzini, the president of Stade Francais, claimed England were holding Haskell hostage when they refused to release him for a key Top 14 match when the Six Nations was on a one-week break.

Andrew, whose role as England's director of elite rugby is set to be scrapped, has said it was "inevitable" the France-based players will be placed under similar pressure during this year's competition.

Stade and Toulon are both mid-table in the French league and face important fixtures on both rest weekends of the Six Nations as they chase a semi-final place.

"We are having dialogue at the moment," said Andrew. "It is inevitable that they will (put the pressure on). They have all got big games.

"Inevitably there are going to be issues that we are working through. How they play out we will have to wait and see.

"We have been absolutely consistent from day one with all these guys and the French clubs about what the situation is and it hasn't changed."

England head to Portugal for a pre-tournament training camp in the last week of January and Andrew sent a firm message to Stade and Toulon that Wilkinson, Haskell and Palmer are expected to be there.

"The French league play on the Thursday night that we are in Portugal. We expect them in Portugal and we expect them to be there when Martin Johnson wants them there," Andrew said.

"If Martin decides they can play at any stage that is a decision Martin takes for the benefit of the individual player and the England team. That is the top and bottom of it."

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