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Former England captain poses key question amidst stars leaving the Premiership

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Friday Jan 12, 2024

Former England captain Will Carling knows a thing or two about pulling on the white jersey having done so on 72 occasions throughout his career.

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Speaking on the BBC Radio 4’s Today program, the iconic centre said that people in upper echelons of the English game need to reassess the game in England as several star players depart for foreign leagues.

“Playing for your country needs to still be the pinnacle. It needs to be something that players love doing.

“Let’s be honest – that’s obviously not the case at the moment.” Carling said.

Speaking about former Captain Owen Farrell’s rumoured move to Top 14 side Racing 92, Carling mentioned

“The lure of playing England for me was incredible, so you’ve got to ask some very serious questions, and I think people in the right positions need to ask, ‘Why are people walking away from playing for their country?’

“There’s a guy [Farrell] who has given incredible service to England – and to Saracens – and if that’s his choice, then you respect it hugely.

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Shifting his focus to the emerging talent behind the likes of Farrell, Carling said he was more concerned with their decision to depart the English game.

“It’s the youngsters that worry me. Owen’s had a great, great career so if that’s how he wants to end it then I think we all respect that.

“It’s some of the others who are going – who have careers ahead of them – that worry me.”

Currently, the RFU have a policy of not selecting foreign-based players for the English national team. Until recently, this has not necessarily been a significant bone of contention. However, given English Rugby has seen four clubs go into administration in the past two years, the financial constraints now placed on clubs have forced players to look further afield.

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With this in mind, Carling feels that the game’s administrators need to make playing for England a more attractive prospect.

“We should be having a game here that is attracting the best talent – English and foreign – and I think that, therefore, we need to look at the running of the game,” he said.

“Let’s be honest – it hasn’t been good for a long, long period of time.

“It’s allowed the game to fall into the situation which it is now. We need to turn our mindset around and build a game which inspires youngsters.”

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