Stuart Lancaster: Arundell faces a major decision for England and I will support him.
Stuart Lancaster has warned “there’s a decision to be made” by Henry Arundell on his future and says the debate about eligibility for England internationals playing overseas is “very tricky”.
The previous coach of the English national team took on the role of director of rugby at Racing 92 this year, following a number of years coaching at Leinster. On Sunday, the French club will face Harlequins in the first round of the Champions Cup. Arundell joined Racing after the downfall of London Irish, with the Rugby Football Union granting him permission to participate in the World Cup due to the extraordinary circumstances.
The 21-year-old is a highly skilled player in English rugby and has made some impressive tries for his new team in Paris. However, according to the RFU’s rules, he will not be able to participate in the Japan and New Zealand tour next year unless he signs with a Premiership club for the 2024-25 season. There are speculations that Bath is the top choice for his return.
Due to the higher financial resources of clubs in France and other countries, Arundell’s situation is becoming a central issue for a persistent problem in English rugby that is expected to deteriorate.
Having previously coached the national team of England, Lancaster is currently in charge of a well-funded club in the Top 14 league – Racing 92. This team boasts a number of international players, such as Siya Kolisi, who was the captain of the South African team that won the World Cup. Due to his experience, Lancaster has a deep understanding of the challenges faced by these players.
Lancaster explained that the situation was quite complex. Looking back to 2011, when he took on the interim position for England, there were choices to be made regarding players who were competing in France. The RFU has consistently maintained their stance on eligibility, with the support of Premiership Rugby, as they prioritize keeping homegrown talent within England. I completely understand the reasoning behind this decision, as it is crucial for both England and the Premiership.
According to Lancaster, I will not hinder the success of any international player participating in the Six Nations for their own national team. This applies to players from France, England, and Wales. The decision regarding Henry is still to be made and I will support him and assist in his growth, regardless of the outcome.
Lancaster praised Arundell for his bravery and maturity in embarking on a new adventure in Paris. He commended him for his willingness to take on such a challenge at a young age and for fully immersing himself in the experience.
The Harlequins are heading to Europe after a strong 36-3 win against their fellow Premiership team Sale last week. Lancaster, whose team is currently at the top of the Top 14 standings with six wins out of nine, is putting a lot of effort into devising a strategy to counter the danger posed by Marcus Smith, Quins’ impressive fly-half who played a key role in defeating the in-form Sharks.
Lancaster expects the player wearing the No 10 jersey for England to present many challenges. He possesses impressive agility, excellent vision, a strong kicking game, and speed. His ability to analyze and identify open spaces makes him stand out.
“It’s similar to preparing for a match against Finn Russell. He has a tendency to either play behind the line or take on the line, making it unpredictable. As a defender, you must be cautious not to give him what he wants. However, it’s challenging as he is skilled in changing direction and seizing opportunities.”
Lancaster also emphasized the upcoming match on Sunday between two teams known for their offensive play. He pointed out the advantage of playing at Paris La Défense Arena, an indoor venue where weather conditions will not be a factor. “Having worked with the coaches and players at Harlequins, I am aware of their excitement to play in a stadium where there is a guaranteed absence of wind and rain,” Lancaster stated. “Racing also adopts a similar style of play. With two attack-minded teams facing each other, this is a highly anticipated fixture.”