I’m being denied top-level rugby, says Abendanon

Ross McLean
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NEWLY-CROWNED European player of the year Nick Abendanon has complained that England’s policy of not selecting overseas-based players is depriving him of the chance to compete at the highest level.

The 28-year-old full-back joined Toulon back-row forward Steffon Armitage in the international wilderness when he signed for Top 14 side Clermont Auvergne in February 2014, ending his eight-year association with Bath.

South African-born Abendanon looks unlikely to add to his two England caps given the Rugby Football Union’s stance of only picking those playing abroad in undefined “exceptional circumstances”, despite calls for the rule to be scrapped ahead of September’s home World Cup.

“Having that rule in place restricts players from playing at the top level,” said Abendanon. “You’re playing with the best players in the world and coming to France has made me a better player and better person. I know exactly why the RFU has that policy in place and I don’t expect it to change, but I have changed my mind on it since moving out here.”

Abendanon argues that a lack of international recognition – his two caps came in 2007 – contributed to his decision to make the move to France in the first place.

“I’m sure Steffon is the same, we would have loved to have played more for our country when we were playing in England,” he added.

“It’s often down to a bit of luck and the coaches that are in place at the time. Mike Brown and Ben Foden had also been playing extremely well when I was contending for that full-back spot. I never really got the chance to play for England, so that’s why I chose to come to France.”

Australia, who are in the same World Cup group as England, last month relaxed their selection policy, allowing players with 60 caps who have held a professional contract with Australian Rugby for at least seven years to play even if signed by an overseas club.