There was significantly bad news for England fans on Monday evening as the new ‘progressive partnership’ between the RFU and the top English clubs means that Eddie Jones can no longer use the ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause to call up highly-rated openside Sam Underhill.
According to The Telegraph, the two organisations have clarified exactly what is meant by ‘exceptional circumstances’ and that it now only pertains to injuries.
“When we wrote the first agreement it was always injury related, we just never wrote it in as specific as that,” said Mark McCafferty, the Premiership Rugby chief executive. “We have clarified it only in the sense of writing what we had in mind eight years ago.
“If you get big injuries ahead of playing a tier-one country – maybe the next in line is inexperienced and almost to a point of safety issues. Under those circumstances that would definitely be exceptional and you might have to look elsewhere.”
Eddie Jones had hoped to use Underhill’s status as a student in Wales as a form of exceptional circumstance, but that cannot now happen.
Either Underhill will have to leave the Ospreys and join an English club to become ‘eligible’ for selection, or he may qualify for Wales under residency rules – a nightmare scenario for most English fans and a dream come true for Wales. With both Warburton and Tipuric at their disposal, Wales would be blessed with unparalleled openside resources.
RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie explained that Eddie Jones was satisfied with the clarification regarding exceptional circumstances (via The Telegraph):
“We discussed it again with Eddie and we agreed with the exceptional circumstances clause and it is left where it is,” Ritchie said.
“I think everybody is clear and Eddie is very good at communicating it to players. We think it is a good clause and the right clause.”
Red Rose supporters across the country will now be hoping Underhill decides to return back to England and push for a spot in the country’s pecking order. However, time is ticking and no doubt Wales head coach Warren Gatland already has one eye on the young openside flanker.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
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