McGeechan backs England selection policy
April 27, 2014
France-based Steffon Armitage has been playing brilliantly but is out of England contention © Getty Images
England should stick to their guns and refuse to select players based overseas, according to Sir Ian McGeechan.
Currently players hoping to be part of Stuart Lancaster's plans must be based in England and McGeechan has given his support to the rule, insisting it should only be broken if the national squad is struck by an injury crisis.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, McGeechan said: "England are doing the right thing. They should have no concerns about that.
"There has been a lot of talk in the past week - prompted by some impressive showings by Toulon's Steffon Armitage - about whether they should be sticking rigidly to the policy of picking only players based in England.
"As it stands, the policy is there for a very good reason. As an international coach, you need a certain level of stability about your preparation. You need to know that you will have sufficient time at the right times with your players ahead of Test matches.
"Once you select a player based abroad, it is a step towards losing control of the players because you are relying on the goodwill of somebody in another country."
Speculation has grown that Lancaster is considering a call-up for Armitage ahead of this summer's tour to New Zealand after excellent displays from the Toulon flanker in the Top 14 and Heineken Cup. Armitage was visited by Lancaster in France last week, but McGeechan dismissed the meeting as nothing more than a clarification of Armitage's position from the England management.
"I think that meeting will have been for the purposes of clarity more than anything else," McGeechan said.
"It will be a surprise if Lancaster is thinking of picking either Armitage in the near future, but what he was probably clarifying was that the Rugby Football Union's policy is that players based abroad can still be selected in 'exceptional circumstances'.
"For instance, if three openside flankers, including captain Chris Robshaw, were to be injured between now and England's first Test against New Zealand in early June, it would be pure common sense to call up Steffon. It would be mad not to use his experience and the form he has been showing.
"As an international coach, you will always lose one or two players. What you want is players who will give their eye teeth to put on the international jersey. Attitude is everything."
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