Andrew: Haskell staying put
RFU's director of elite rugby Rob Andrew has refuted claims that James Haskell will play for Stade Francais on Saturday.
Last Updated: 04/03/10 8:35pm
Rugby Football Union's director of elite rugby Rob Andrew has refuted claims that England flanker James Haskell will be released from international duty to compete for Stade Francais this weekend.
The French club have demanded that the 24-year-old returns from England's training to play in Saturday's crunch Top 14 clash with Toulouse, for which nearly 80,000 tickets have been sold.
Stade claim Haskell is not tied by any agreement to remain with England, saying International Rugby Board regulations give clubs first call on players in a non-international week, and there is nothing in Haskell's club contract to over-ride that.
But RFU chief Andrew believes the correct provisions are in place for Haskell to remain with the rest of Martin Johnson's squad.
"We have been given assurances by James and his advisors that he has an agreement with Stade that he can fulfil the release periods for England training," he said.
"The position is between the player and the club. There is no issue here between the RFU and Stade Francais."
England have always stated that players based in France would only be considered for national selection if they could guarantee being available whenever called upon by team manager Johnson.
Andrew stressed the onus is on the player - and not the Rugby Football Union - to ensure he is available for international duty.
"We set out very clearly what the ground rules were for the guys involved," Andrew added.
"We asked for players to give us undertakings from their advisors, their agents or their lawyers that they have agreed with their clubs what we effectively require.
"We can only go on an undertaking from the lawyer - which we have from James' lawyer - that he has the release periods that we require in his agreement with his club."
If Haskell does not have the cast-iron arrangements in place with Stade then his England future would be thrust into serious doubt.
In an ironic twist, Haskell may not be fit to play this weekend anyway having become the latest player in the England camp to contract a stomach bug.
Haskell did not train with the England players on Thursday, with his place taken by Joe Worsley.
Johnson responded to suggestions of a "convenient illness" by saying: "I spoke to the doctor and he said the symptoms could not be faked."
He added: "It is James' understanding that he is not doing anything wrong." But the Haskell situation is fast developing into a test case, with Guazzini alert to the fact the RFU pay the English clubs millions of pounds to ensure player availability."