Overseas ex-Saracens ‘could be picked’ by England

Maro Itoje was one of eight Saracens players selected by England for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Jap

Maro Itoje was one of eight Saracens players selected by England for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan (pic David Davies/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney has refused to rule out the possibility of allowing England to select Saracens players who have departed overseas in the wake of the salary cap scandal.

The double winners will be relegated from the Gallagher Premiership at the end of the season for being in breach of the £7million limit on wages enforced by the league and are likely lose a number of their stars for the 2020-21 campaign.

Although Eddie Jones is permitted to pick from Championship clubs, it is an unsatisfactory scenario, especially with the Lions touring South Africa in 2020.

With recruitment by Premiership teams for next season well under way, Saracens players could move to France in the search of a contract - a decision that would normally make them unavailable for England selection.

However, the RFU can reverse this policy in 'exceptional circumstances' and Sweeney insists he will act in the best interests of the England team.

"We're not going there yet because the focus at the moment is very much on this Six Nations and that first game against France," Sweeney said.

"Right now it doesn't impact the Six Nations and it doesn't impact the tour to Japan in July. The first time we need to consider things like that are the autumn internationals.

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"We can select players from the Championship, that's always been the case, but anything to do with exemptions and exceptional circumstances is a bit hypothetical at this stage.

"Any decisions made (will be) in the best interests of the England team and the players. 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."

When asked about the possibility of centrally contracting Saracens players to keep them on these shores, Sweeney replied: "That's a big can of worms and no, we haven't gone there at this stage."

The RFU is currently examining the written report on Saracens' salary cap transgressions that was issued in November but has not been made public.

Twickenham supports the action taken by Premiership Rugby Limited and is in constant dialogue with the governing body responsible for running the English top flight.

While admitting "there are no winners out of this", Sweeney has ruled out a disrepute charge being brought against either Saracens or any individuals involved "at this stage".