Exiles must return home for shot at World Cup spot, says Johnson

Frank Dalleres
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Steffon Armitage has blossomed at Toulon
FORMER England head coach Martin Johnson has backed the national team’s controversial embargo on selecting foreign-based stars, insisting the policy is there for good reason.

Current European player of the year Nick Abendanon and last season’s award-winner Steffon Armitage are both set to be overlooked for England’s World Cup squad this year because they play in France. Johnson, who lifted the trophy as captain in 2003, has little sympathy for full-back Abendanon and back-row Armitage, who knew the rules before joining Clermont Auvergne and Toulon respectively.

“Guys know the rules. If they wanted to put themselves in a situation to play for England, like all the guys in England are doing, then come over and play here. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

“When I was doing the England job we had guys go [to play abroad] before the rule was in there. It created issues for us, it created a lot of issues for the players at times and was difficult.

“I can understand on a number of levels why the rule is there. Rightly or wrongly, disagree with it or not. If you’re a player and you want to play for England, you know what to do.”