England release row rumbles on
England will refuse to compromise on the early release of French-based players for World Cup duty according to RFU director of elite rugby Rob Andrew, even though Wales will not be handed their Premier Rugby players at the same time.
The RFU has a deal with Aviva Premiership sides to release all England players as soon as their final club game of the season finishes, and insists Top 14 trio Jonny Wilkinson, James Haskell and Tom Palmer are released by Toulon and Stade Francais at the same time.
But IRB rules state that players should only be released 35 days before the World Cup, and despite the Premier Rugby deal the RFU are holding firm to this for other international players.
This means that English-based England players will link up with the national team in early June, while Wales will only have access to their Premier Rugby stars on August 4.
The discrepancy led to a furious tirade from Wales boss Warren Gatland while it is rumoured that the French clubs will try to hold on to their players.
"We have an agreement with the Premier sides to have players from the last club game until the end of the World Cup," Andrew said as the RFU launched a six-year deal with rugby fashion brand Eden Park - ironically from France.
"We will have this squad of 50 available from the end of the season.
"IRB regulation nine states a 35-day minimum, but we have nothing to do with this front as we have a separate agreement between the RFU and English clubs."
Despite Gatland’s fury, Wales have a similar arrangement with their own clubs.
The RFU has no such deal with Top 14 clubs - it is up to the players to insist on early release clauses in their professional contracts with clubs, with Andrew insisting he had been assured this was the case with England players in France.
"We ask our France-based players that they insert into their contracts exactly the same conditions as they would have with an English club," Andrew added.
"All the guys in the elite performance squad have assured us this.
"Contracts are confidential between the players and their clubs, but we have undertakings between players and advisors that they have what we require."
Rob Andrew was speaking at an Eden Park press conference to announce their long-term partnership with the Rugby Football Union as the Official Formalwear supplier to the England Rugby Team. www.uk.eden-park.com