England chiefs stand their ground in Haskell tug of war

THE Rugby Football Union have dug their heels in over the James Haskell club-versus-country affair, reiterating the flanker will not be released to play for Stade Francais this weekend.

Stade ignited the row after demanding that Haskell returns to Paris for their Top 14 clash with rivals Toulouse as England are not in Six Nations action until next weekend.

The RFU insist they have an agreement that entitles England coach Martin Johnson to retain the core of his squad throughout the competition, but Stade say they are exempt due to the fact they are a French side.

English chiefs, however, have stood firm and refuse to bow down to the Parisians’ demands. An RFU spokesman said: “Our position is as it has been for the past two days. James will be staying with England as his contract with Stade Francais allows him to be available during EPS (Elite Player Squad) periods. We have nothing further to add to that.”

Haskell, 24, has taken the No6 shirt in all three of their Six Nations matches so far and scored two tries in the opening 30-17 victory over Wales at Twickenham on 6 February.

A Stade statement released on Monday said: “No agreement has ever been signed with the RFU, contrary to what they claim. If it is so, the RFU can produce this so-called agreement.

“The RFU have surely confused us with other clubs such as Toulon, who had to accept an agreement for this season relating to Jonny Wilkinson.

“Therefore, Stade Francais are ordering James Haskell, who has already missed two training sessions, to kindly rejoin his club urgently.”

Meanwhile, lock Simon Shaw is expected to undergo an MRI scan later today to assess the full extent of the shoulder injury suffered in last Saturday’s game with Ireland.

Wasps star Shaw, 36, was carried off early during the 20-16 defeat and has since had an X-ray and seen a specialist.

Full-back Delon Armitage’s rib injury is still being monitored, prompting Johnson to call up Leicester lock Louis Deacon, Northampton full-back Ben Foden and Bath tight-head David Wilson to the camp this week.