Lancaster defends imports

Player development chief says squad isn't losing 'Englishness'

Last Updated: 01/06/11 6:58pm

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Lancaster: Has no concerns over foreign-born players

Lancaster: Has no concerns over foreign-born players

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Rugby Football Union head of elite player development Stuart Lancaster has defended the prevalence of foreign-born players in the current squad.

Lancaster, who also serves as England Saxons coach and is in the running for the RFU's new performance director role, recently called Mouritz Botha into his Churchill Cup squad.

The 29-year-old Saracens lock was born in South Africa but qualifies on residency grounds having previously played for Bedford Athletic and Bedford Blues.

He joins prop Matt Stevens - also born in South Africa but winner of 32 England caps - in the squad.

Meanwhile, the senior squad contained the likes of New Zealand-born trio Riki Flutey, Shontayne Hape and Dylan Hartley as well as South African-born Hendre Fourie during this year's RBS Six Nations.

But Lancaster is not concerned by the trend and insists the squad has been able to maintain its national identity.

"England want to put the best side out and I don't think there are any concerns we are losing our Englishness," Lancaster said.

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"I don't think it is an active recruitment policy. If the likes of Hendre Fourie and Mouritz Botha come through the development programmes in England and put their hands up then ultimately they can be considered for selection.

"Mouritz has come in on form. He played very well for Saracens.

"When you look at his track record as a player, he has gone from Bedford Athletic seven or eight years ago and come through ultimately to play for Saracens.

"He has been in this country for a long time and played an awful lot of development rugby in England, a bit like Hendre Fourie did. There is no problem in that from my regard."

If appointed as performance director, Lancaster will oversee the development of talent for the 2015 and 2019 World Cups and is confident that English-born players will be given every opportunity to shine.

He added: "There are a lot of English players who are getting through and getting their opportunities.

"With the likes of Graham Kitchener and Dave Attwood alongside (Botha), we have three good second rows there. We have Jamie Gibson and James Gaskell in the back row as well.

"We are going to ask some young players like Rory Clegg, Billy Twelvetrees and Henry Trinder to step up into leadership roles and we believe they are ready to do that."

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