Haskell, Palmer leave Wasps
Wasps have confirmed that James Haskell and Tom Palmer will join Stade Francais at the end of the 2008-09 season.
By Joe Drabble
Last Updated: 17/02/09 12:04pm
Wasps have confirmed that international forwards James Haskell and Tom Palmer will join Stade Francais at the end of the 2008-09 season.
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The announcement comes the morning after England outside centre Riki Flutey agreed to join French club Brive on a two-year-deal.
With French clubs not bound by a salary cap, Guinness Premiership sides are unable to match the wages offered by the Top 14 clubs.
Reports suggest that Flutey and flanker Haskell have virtually trebled their wages, news which comes as a major concern both for English club rugby and the national team.
Wasps executive chairman Mark Rigby said: "It does raise great concern that French clubs can now blow the English clubs away when it comes to salaries and it is clear that in financial terms we are no longer on a level playing field.
"There is a wider concern that the development of English rugby players will only be hampered as they move away from the Guinness Premiership, which stands as the best domestic league in the northern hemisphere, and regular head to head competition."
Haskell, Flutey and lock Palmer will no longer fall under the eight-year access agreement which England have agreed with all Premiership clubs.
The trio will have to be released for Test matches but their French employers are under no obligation to make them available for additional England training weeks.
Wasps director of rugby Ian McGeechan, on confirmation of the news, said: "As ever at this time of the year thoughts shift to next season and our focus is still our current Guinness Premiership campaign.
"With much still to play for and all eyes on a top four spot these players, along with the full squad, will be looking to drive Wasps forward before attention shifts to the 2009-10 season.
"All three of these players have enjoyed great success as a part of the club, on both the European and domestic stage as well as the international arena.
"Since their arrival and through our Academy and development structure we have seen them flourish and that reiterates the great structures in place at the club. We wish Riki, James and Tom well in the next stage of their career."