England adopt firm stance in tug of war over Haskell

ENGLAND chiefs have swatted away a request from Stade Francais to release flanker James Haskell to play at the weekend.

Haskell’s club want him back for Saturday’s clash with Toulouse, with their owner insisting they are entitled to recall him.

But the Rugby Football Union has rejected that plea and reaffirmed its belief that they have a long-standing agreement with the Paris outfit that allows them to keep Haskell. “We’ve received a request but he is not going back,” said a spokesman. “We reached an agreement with Stade Francais last summer and it is in James’ contract that he’s available during elite player squad periods, so we’re under no obligation to release him.”

Haskell has started all three of England’s matches in this season’s Six Nations, scoring two tries in the opening victory over Wales.

The RFU has an agreement with clubs that entitles them to keep players during the competition, but Stade Francais owner Max Guazzini believes his club is exempt. “We’ve contacted the English federation to ask them to release Haskell. We also contacted the player to ask him to return immediately,” Guazzini said.

“Stade Francais is not an English club, and is not bound by this agreement. We’re very generous before the tournament for training sessions, but this is the classico against Toulouse at the Stade de France, not just another match. He must at the very least be available for selection.”

England’s next match is against Scotland at Murrayfield on 13 March.