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James expects RFU to ease rules

Published 27/04/2015

Brock James believes England may be forced to change their selection policy to include the likes of his Clermont team-mate Nick Abendanon, pictured
Brock James believes England may be forced to change their selection policy to include the likes of his Clermont team-mate Nick Abendanon, pictured

England may have to follow Australia's lead and end their refusal to select stars playing abroad, according to Clermont fly-half Brock James.

Clermont's Australian playmaker admitted he is "surprised" England have not had a closer look at his in-form team-mate Nick Abendanon, despite the Rugby Football Union's staunch position on overseas-based players.

James knows full well England will only turn to foreign-based stars in "exceptional circumstances" - a clause not yet invoked - but believes the RFU could be forced to relax that hard-line stance.

Australia's rugby bosses relented on a similar position last week, allowing overseas-based stars with 60 or more caps to be considered for Wallabies selection.

The uncapped 33-year-old James branded Australia's switch a "smart decision", before hinting England may end up having to follow suit.

"From his form this year I am surprised Nick Abendanon hasn't been a bit more in the mix," said James, of the former Bath full-back's Test chances.

"He's been great this year: every time he's played he's been one of the top three players on the field.

"He's brought a different style from the back for us, which is great; it's fitted in well with our strategy and our gameplan.

"It seems to be the way it's heading with the recruiting to Europe, that unions find a way (to select overseas-based stars).

"Home nations seem to be losing some of their better players, so I guess if you want to have your better players playing, that's the way it looks that it's going.

"I guess there are a few key factors there that people need to consider before they head overseas.

"Australia are targeting the experienced guys, it's not a case of people heading off when they are 19 years of age and still being able to play for the Wallabies.

"I guess it's probably a good way to keep all the young talent at home still, rather than just letting everybody leave."

James left Australia for Clermont in 2006 frustrated with limited Super Rugby opportunities in spells with the Queensland Reds and Western Force.

The former Sydney University outside-half will come face to face with compatriot Matt Giteau in Saturday's Champions Cup final this weekend.

Clermont take on Toulon at Twickenham on Saturday, with James backing Giteau's credentials for a Wallabies recall.

The 32-year-old expected to end his Wallabies career when he joined Toulon in 2011, but could now be one of the chief beneficiaries of the ARU's about-turn.

James is among those queuing up to call for his Test return, even if the pair will duel it out for European glory in west London this weekend.

"I think it's probably a smart decision from Australia," said James.

"The form that Gits (Matt Giteau) is in, he's still one of the best in the world in his position.

"It gives the Australian Rugby Union the chance to choose from their best players.

"There are a lot of players starting to come to Europe after this year's World Cup, so to leave the door open for those guys with experience who have been such a big part of the Wallabies for such a long time is obviously a good thing."

Toulon can make continental history with a third-straight European crown in Saturday's inaugural Champions Cup final, but despite a glamour tie the expected crowd languishes at 50,000.

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), who organise the tournament, admitted the final is a week too early in the calendar.

Fans purchasing a ticket for the Aviva Premiership final on Saturday, May 30, will now be handed a free ticket for this weekend's European showpiece, as bosses aim to boost attendance.

EPCR officials confirmed a glitch in the system handed a "very small number" of fans free tickets to Saturday's Champions Cup final without even purchasing Aviva Premiership tickets.

That problem has now been solved, and the Aviva Premiership final deal runs until Friday.

James believes Clermont will be unfazed if Twickenham is some 30,000 short of capacity this weekend.

"For us the most important thing is obviously what happens on the field for 80 minutes on Saturday," he said.

"Two French teams playing in London is a bit of a promoters' nightmare I guess, but both teams have known the final's in London this year, and that's what both teams have been shooting for.

"It will be good to see what kind of crowd turns up on Saturday."

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