No backing down by Andrew
Rob Andrew reiterated that England will not be releasing James Haskell to play for Stade Francais this weekend. And in doing so, England's elite rugby director shifted the spotlight of the club-versus-country row directly on to the player himself.
International Rugby Board regulations give clubs first call on players in a non-international week and there is nothing in Haskell's club contract to over-ride that. But Andrew refused to back down, arguing England's decision is based on guarantees made by Haskell that he has a separate agreement in place with Stade Francais covering his release.
"We have been given assurances by James and his advisors that he has an agreement with Stade that he can fulfil the release periods for England training," said Andrew. "The position is between the player and the club. There is no issue here between the RFU and Stade Francais."
England have always stated that players based in France would only be considered for national selection if they could guarantee being available whenever called upon by manager Martin Johnson.
Andrew stressed the onus is on the player - and not the Rugby Football Union - to ensure he is available for England duty.
The crux of the Haskell case appears to be whether he negotiated that flexibility with Stade Francais, and with enough clarity to include fallow weeks in the Six Nations.
England have been led to believe he did. If not, Haskell would not have been selected for the Six Nations.
"We set out very clearly what the ground rules were for the guys involved," Andrew added.
"We asked for players to give us undertakings from their advisors, their agents or their lawyers that they have agreed with their clubs what we effectively require.
"We can only go on an undertaking from the lawyer - which we have from James' lawyer - that he has the release periods that we require in his agreement with his club."