French-based Nick Abendanon wants policy U-turn

Abendanon was spellbinding as Clermont cruised into the semi-finals of Europe. Picture: Getty
Abendanon was spellbinding as Clermont cruised into the semi-finals of Europe. Picture: Getty
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Nick Abendanon hopes his stellar evening against Northampton has offered England an additional reason to soften their stance on selecting overseas-based players.

Abendanon was spellbinding as Clermont cruised into the semi-finals of Europe by dismantling the Aviva Premiership champions and runaway leaders 37-5 at a hostile Stade Marcel-Michelin on Saturday.

It is still the 28-year-old’s debut season in the Massif Central following eight years at Bath, but his graceful running from full-back has hastened the downfall of Sale, Saracens and now Northampton in the Champions Cup in recent months.

On the form displayed at the highest level of European club rugby Abendanon deserves to be judged alongside Mike Brown, the current incumbent in the national No 15 jersey and England’s undisputed choice to fill the position at the World Cup.

Calls for England to temporarily abandon their policy of not picking players in the Top 14 in time for this autumn’s global showpiece have to date been inspired only by the brilliance of Toulon back row Steffon Armitage, but on Saturday night Abendanon widened the debate.

“I’d love to get a call from (England head coach) Stuart Lancaster over the summer, but I’m not counting on it because they’ve got that rule in place,” Abendanon said.

“I understand the reasons for the rule and in my heart I knew that when I came to France, my England career was probably over.

“But special dispensation for the World Cup? Well, if I stay injury free, keep playing some good rugby, then maybe it’s a possibility in the same way that people have been talking about Steffon.

“I’ve picked the three games against English teams to win man of the match!”

England star Anthony Watson, meanwhile, believes the pain of Bath’s European Champions Cup exit can be a driving force in their push to make this season’s Aviva Premiership play-offs.

Six Ian Madigan penalties gave three-time European champions Leinster a tense 18-15 quarter-final success.

“The overriding emotion is that we are absolutely disappointed,” said Bath full-back Watson.

“But we have to try to take the positives, and I think a disappointment like this is going to help us in the Premiership.”