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Ditch the old rules and let Owen Farrell play for England if he goes to France with Racing 92… The stubborn RFU is holding back the national team

Ditch the old rules and let Owen Farrell play for England if he goes to France with Racing 92… The stubborn RFU is holding back the national team

By Sir Clive Woodward for the Mail on Sunday

22:30 06 January 2024, updated 23:17 06 January 2024

  • Owen Farrell should be allowed to play for England if he signs for Racing 92
  • This is a great opportunity for him to take his game to a new level
  • The Russian Federation must act and abandon the ridiculous foreigner selection rule

My biggest reaction when I heard Owen Farrell was in advanced talks to join Racing 92 was that it was a great opportunity for him to move to Paris and take his game to another level.

Farrell could put himself under pressure to succeed in a very different environment having spent his entire career with Saracens and England.

There are no negatives about the proposed two-year deal apart from the fact that it would mean he would not be able to play for England. This is a big mistake.

The Russian Federation must abandon its foreign selection rule. Farrell just shows the ridiculousness of it all and highlights how backward English rugby is in its thinking and structure.

This will be a great transition for Farrell on and off the field, and a great life experience for him and his young family. Everyone in English rugby should be celebrating this move.

Owen Farrell should be allowed to play for England if he signs with French club Racing 92
This move will allow Farrell to test himself in an environment completely different from that of Muslims

Instead, many are questioning the order because under the rules it means he cannot play for England.

What is this bullshit. If Farrell – or any other player – plays his club rugby in France or elsewhere, he should still be eligible to play in England.

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If the rules are not changed and changed quickly, I don't think we will see Farrell play for England again, as he has already decided to take a break from Test rugby to prioritize his safety and the well-being of his family after suffering abuse from supporters.

Currently, only those who work for Premier League clubs can play in the national team, led by Steve Borthwick. It is an outdated policy and does not reflect the society we live in today. It is a policy born from a negative mentality and revolves around “defending our region.” It sets the wrong tone.

It's no wonder we keep creating defense-driven teams. Meanwhile, in France, it's all about attacking.

Borthwick this week confirmed the appointment of New Zealander Andrew Strowbridge to his backroom team. Felix Jones, an Irishman, also joined.

I have nothing against these individuals, but I find it ironic that England can choose managers from all over the world without choosing players born in England who play for French clubs!

English rugby needs to realize how the national team can benefit from having players abroad.

England can get coaches from abroad like Andrew Strowbridge, but cannot select English-born players for French clubs.
Marcus Smith may regret not signing for Racing 92 at the height of his career
Jonny Wilkinson improved at Toulon even though he went there four or five years too late

It's impossible to compare my career in the amateur era to the modern game. But I moved to Australia when I was 29 while I was still at Leicester and England. At that time, it was work and play. I was employed by Xerox in Sydney and played for Manly. People said I was crazy for moving. But it was the best thing I ever did.

My own experience is part of the reason I oppose the RFU rule.

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My advice to players is not to look back at your career when you retire and feel regret. Moving abroad is not for everyone. But it can make you a better player and person.

I think the likes of Marcus Smith – who was targeted by Racing – will look back and think that maybe they should have moved on while playing at the peak of their career.

I worked with Jonny Wilkinson for many years, and he even improved when he went to Toulon, although in fact he went to France four or five years too late.

All the negativity surrounding Farrell – which led to his international break and potential move to Racing – came because he played too much in the midfield position.

I have been consistent in saying that Farrell, when fit, should always be England's No.10. He's a world-class attacking player, but he's nowhere near the same player as a centre-half.

Farrell is a great leader and team man. I think that proved a strength, but it also proved a weakness. He should have insisted on playing as a number 10 and not in midfield.

Farrell is a fantastic captain – when fit he should always be England's No.10
Saracens will have a tough task replacing Farrell, but he deserves the chance to impress in France

Had he stayed at fly-half, I think the English rugby public would have better appreciated what a great player he was.

I think England would have won the World Cup in 2019 if Farrell had been 10, Manu Tuilagi had been 12 and Henry Slade had been 13. England missed an opportunity in 2019 that they will forever regret.

I think the only regret Farrell will have is that during the Six Nations, England put the handbrake on and shocked us all by playing some exhilarating attacking rugby.

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It's tough for George Ford, but Borthwick should play Marcus Smith's No. 10 in the Six Nations. Smith should be given the full season and his playing experience at fullback should end with him.

With Smith at 10 and enterprising youngsters like Tommy Freeman, Ollie Lawrence and Will Joseph outside of him, England could create a team capable of winning a World Cup.

Saracens will face a huge challenge to replace Farrell.

But I want to finish by saying a big “good opportunity.” Anyone with a passion for English rugby must hope it flourishes in France.