Saracens: RFU says players who move abroad may still be able to represent England

By Chris JonesBBC rugby union correspondent
Bill Sweeney
England visit France in their opening Six Nations game on 2 February

The Rugby Football Union has not ruled out England selection for Saracens players who move abroad after the club's relegation to the Championship.

At present, the RFU does not select English players based overseas unless in "exceptional circumstances".

But some big names may head abroad rather than play in the second tier.

"Whatever decisions we make would be made in the best interests of the England team and players," said RFU boss Bill Sweeney.

"The first time we need to consider things like that are the autumn internationals.

"Anything to do with exemptions and exceptional circumstances is a bit hypothetical at this stage."

'Players won't be disadvantaged'

Saracens players are meeting with the club this week to discuss their futures.

While Sweeney says the RFU has yet to make any firm decisions over its eligibility rules, time is running out for Saracens' players to work out their futures, with many clubs both in England and abroad already starting to finalise their squads for next season.

If any players who are keen to leave Saracens are unable to find a club in England, either on loan or permanently, they may be forced to look overseas.

The RFU has already confirmed that players can be picked for England from the Championship.

"The players are at the forefront of our considerations - and we want to make sure that whatever happens, the players aren't disadvantaged in any way," Sweeney added.

"There could be conversations later on but the real focus right now is the Six Nations and that first game coming up in Paris. But we'll be making sure the players are looked after."

'I couldn't see Farrell leaving'

Although the break-up of the Saracens squad is widely expected, it's possible some high-profile players may stay at Allianz Park to try to restore the club's battered reputation.

Former Saracens wing Chris Ashton told the Rugby Union Weekly podcast he could even see England captain Owen Farrell staying loyal.

"I couldn't see Owen leaving; I just couldn't see it," Ashton said.

"The type of people they have there, I think they will stick together as much as they possibly can, to get the club back up.

"I think we might be surprised at how many stay around."

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