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Lancaster targets long term success

Published 20/05/2015

Chris Ashton has been named in England's World Cup training squad
Chris Ashton has been named in England's World Cup training squad

Stuart Lancaster insists England's pursuit of lasting success drove the decision to omit overseas-based players from his World Cup training squad.

Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon are high profile absentees from the 50-strong party named by Lancaster with the head coach refusing to activate the 'exceptional circumstances' rule that would enable him to pick from the French Top 14.

Armitage has been succeeded as European player of the year by Abendanon, but England are to enter their home World Cup without two of the northern hemisphere's outstanding performers.

Lancaster insists the need to protect English rugby at club and international level is at odds with the far-reaching implications of telling players they could still represent the Red Rose despite having opted for the financial rewards on offer in France.

"We could take a very, very short-term view as a coaching team which, perhaps, would give us individually a better chance of being successful, but we don't believe that is what our job is," he said.

"Our long term plan isn't just about 2015. Clearly it is hugely important to us, but so too are 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and beyond. In the past we have never had sustained success.

"We have the first chance now for England to be successful - look at the group of players we have and who are coming through and the culture and spirit we have. We don't want to jeopardise any of that for one thing."

Among the factors that shaped Lancaster's thinking was the corrosive impact that picking the likes of Armitage and Abendanon would have on squad morale.

Some England stars, including Dylan Hartley and James Haskell, have rejected moves to the Top 14 fearing they would then be dropped by the Red Rose and Lancaster understands the possible repercussions if that loyalty had proved to be misguided.

"I've not consulted any of the players as it's not their decision, it's mine, but I knew what they'd be thinking," Lancaster said.

"If you are in a team and you've worked for three years to get to the final of whatever tournament you're in and then one guy comes in from outside...it will affect team dynamics.

"Rugby is the ultimate team game so I didn't need the players to tell me that."

The definition of 'exceptional circumstances' has never been outlined by the Rugby Football Union, but Lancaster has offered some clarity on the rule.

"The reason the policy was put there in the first place was so the England coach could select players should there be an absolute train smash of injuries," Lancaster said.

"If you had no tight-heads you could go to get someone who was available. I understand why it is in place but that's the bit that needs debate going forward.

"The bit that needs debating is whether you have a clause in there at all. That's not my decision.

"New Zealand don't have a clause. They allow sabbaticals for a year, but if players want to play in the World Cup they have to come back. That's above my head. There's only a certain amount I can control."

Lancaster revealed that he spoke to Armitage, Abendanon and Toby Flood to inform them they would not be selected in his training squad.

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