Players could challenge England selection move, says Damian Hopley

Rugby Players' Association chief executive Damian Hopley has warned England's stance on not selecting players based abroad could be challenged under European law.

Hopley broadly supports the Rugby Football Union's move to bring England players of all levels under their control in the build-up to the 2015 World Cup on home soil.

But he is concerned that players' earning potential will be hit if they have to turn their back on the possibility of lucrative contracts with French Top 14 clubs.

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Hopley said: "Clearly we want the best players to be available to play for England but this approach could be seen as somewhat heavy-handed.

"I understand the intentions behind the approach but there are a lot of people in the game who are nervous about the execution and practice of what is being requested. I am sure the stance is eminently challengeable if a party wanted to take it further.

"We all have to be realistic about EU legislation and if there is a restraint on a player it goes to the heart of freedom of movement for our members. We will be taking legal advice once we see the letter (sent to players by RFU chief executive John Steele] but I have no doubt if there was an appetite by an agent or a player to consider challenging this they would be on strong ground."

If Jonny Wilkinson and James Haskell were to continue playing in France, their international careers could be at an end.

Similarly, Sale prop Andrew Sheridan may now think twice about his proposed move to a Top 14 club because of the potential repercussions.

The RFU, which believes the move gives England the best chance of winning the 2015 World Cup, has left itself the option of selecting an overseas-based player under undefined "exceptional circumstances".