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Abendanon hopes to have impressed


Nick Abendanon

Nick Abendanon

Nick Abendanon

Nick Abendanon hopes his stellar evening against Northampton has offered England an additional reason to soften their stance on selecting overseas-based players.

Abendanon was spellbinding as Clermont cruised into the semi-finals of Europe by dismantling the Aviva Premiership champions and runaway leaders 37-5 at a hostile Stade Marcel-Michelin.

It is still the 28-year-old's debut season in the Massif Central following eight years at Bath, but his graceful running from full-back has hastened the downfall of Sale, Saracens and now Northampton in the Champions Cup in recent months.

On the form displayed at the highest level of European club rugby Abendanon deserves to be judged alongside Mike Brown, the Red Rose's current incumbent in the number 15 jersey and their undisputed choice to fill the position at the World Cup.

Calls for England to temporarily abandon their policy of picking players in the Top 14 in time for this autumn's global showpiece have to date been inspired only by the brilliance of Toulon back row Steffon Armitage, but on Saturday night Abendanon widened the debate.

"I'd love to get a call from (England head coach) Stuart Lancaster over the summer, but I'm not counting on it because they've got that rule in place," Abendanon said.

"I understand the reasons for the rule and in my heart I knew that when I came to France, my England career was probably over.

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"But special dispensation for the World Cup? Well, if I stay injury free, keep playing some good rugby, then maybe it's a possibility in the same way that people have been talking about Steffon.

"I've picked the three games against English teams to win man of the match!"

Abendanon signed a two-year contract with Clermont, including the option for a third season, after growing frustrated with Bath's failure to challenge for silverware during his time at the Recreation Ground.

The possibility of adding to the two caps won in 2007 could hasten a return to England, however.

"I've loved it at Clermont. I was very scared to come to such a big club. Ninety per cent of the players didn't know who I was when I came here. Luckily I've performed fairly well, so it's made life a lot easier for me," he said.

"I've come out here with my fiancée. We love the French way of life, we have a fantastic apartment and friends we've made for life. If things go well, I can see myself staying here for a long time.

"But it all depends. If I do get a call from Stuart for the World Cup or want to give my England chances another shot, I may have to reconsider my options."

While Clermont swagger into the semi-finals of Europe and the final straight of their challenge for the Top 14 title, Northampton must retreat to the east Midlands to lick their wounds.

Ten points separate them from second place Saracens with four regular matches remaining and captain Dylan Hartley is adamant the defence of their Premiership crown will not collapse in response to a belief-sapping loss in central France.

"That wasn't the worst day I've ever had in Europe. I've had plenty of shockers. Across the board we didn't perform. It's not like a few individuals didn't play well," Hartley said.

"I'm not worried about this defeat having an impact on the rest of our season. We've got a big task next weekend against Exeter, a form side, away from home. We've got to bounce back pretty quickly."

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