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Overseas stars set to miss out

Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon will miss out on England's World Cup training squad as Stuart Lancaster holds firm on his overseas-player selection policy.

Toulon flanker Armitage and Clermont full-back Abendanon have starred in France this term, but Lancaster has resisted the temptation to challenge England's self-imposed rule of only selecting overseas-based stars in "exceptional circumstances".

Lancaster will name an initial roster as large as 50 on Wednesday, facing questions for the first time on his decision to exile Manu Tuilagi, the Leicester centre who was last week convicted of assaulting police officers.

England's head coach has banned Tuilagi until January, and the Samoa-born star's absence could open the door for Wasps' uncapped centre Elliot Daly to step into the squad.

Daly could swell the ranks of uncapped additions to five, along with rugby league convert Sam Burgess, Exeter duo Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie, and Saracens lock Maro Itoje.

"Maro's a great player, he's got a lot of fight in him and I definitely think he's worth a shout," Billy Vunipola, Itoje's Saracens team-mate, told Press Association Sport.

"He's very confident in his own ability and what he can bring to the team.

"He's one of those guys that I think will be a great leader one day, if not now.

"The coaches at Saracens have given him an opportunity to play in the first team quite early on, and he's taken it with both hands.

"He knows the coaches and players have confidence in him and I'm sure that helps him out."

Leicester lock Ed Slater could also make England's wider squad after recovering from knee surgery in the last fortnight, a problem that at one stage threatened to wipe out his entire season.

Former London Irish back-rower Armitage has helped Toulon to an unprecedented third-straight European title this term, but remains in the Test wilderness.

The five-cap flanker chased a French passport at the height of his desperation in England exile earlier this season, keen to switch allegiance to Les Bleus.

The Olympic ruling loophole that opened that possibility, raised by rugby sevens' inclusion at the Rio games, was quickly shut down however.

England have clung to their policy of refusing to consider stars plying their trade abroad, in a bid to keep the top talent on home shores.

Australia were the latest country to relax their rules on selecting foreign-based stars, the Wallabies now pledging to consider players at overseas clubs provided they hold 60 or more caps.

That paves the way for Toulon duo Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell to feature in the England-based World Cup this autumn. Their club-mate Armitage looks set to watch the spectacle from the sidelines.


From Belfast Telegraph