Henry Arundell may be unavailable for England until 2026 but Exeter boss Rob Baxter insists the restriction on selecting overseas-based players must remain in place.
Arundell has signed a two-year contract extension with Racing 92 after turning down a move to Bath that would also have included one of the Rugby Football Union’s 25 ‘hybrid contracts’.
It means the English game’s most exciting talent, who plundered five tries in the World Cup match against Chile in September, is off-limits to Steve Borthwick for over two years.
Arundell’s decision has renewed the spotlight on the RFU’s rule that only those players competing in the Gallagher Premiership can be considered, but Baxter insists it is necessary for a healthy league.
“How will we promote our competition as being at a very high level if you’re wide open to the best players playing outside the country?” the Chiefs director of rugby said.
“That will never help promote the Premiership and without promoting the Premiership I don’t think you’ll ever get a successful England side.
“The best way to keep young players in this country is by letting them know that staying in this country gives them the best opportunity to play international rugby.”
Baxter is preparing Exeter for Sunday’s Investec Champions Cup clash with Munster at Sandy Park as the Devonians look to build on their impressive one-point victory at Toulon in round one.
This Sunday we take on Munster #ChiefsFamily
It's Round 2⃣ of the Investec @championscup and we're back at Sandy Park
After Saturday's epic victory in France, this is not one to be missed
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) December 11, 2023
The triumph on the Cote d’Azur was among the highlights of a superb weekend for the Premiership, whose clubs recorded seven wins in eight games, including four against Top 14 sides.
The results come amid concerns over the league’s ability to compete on the European stage, not least because of a smaller salary cap, and at a time when a number of England players including Arundell and his England team-mates Jack Willis and Joe Marchant have headed across the Channel.
Baxter suspects the Premiership teams may have been underestimated in round one and will reserve judgement over what it means until deeper into the competition.
“Because of the negativity surrounding the Premiership lately, it would be very easy to take the Premiership clubs lightly. Maybe that’s what happened,” he said.
Here are the numbers behind a stunning @ChampionsCup weekend
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) December 12, 2023
“There’s not a first-team player in the Premiership who is not a good, determined professional rugby player and you’ve seen that in how competitive the games have been.
“We should be talking positively about the Premiership and the results at the weekend bear that out. There should be more positivity around the Premiership than there is, but also we need to back that up.
“English teams will be competitive, our challenge going forward is how we maintain that. We’ll know the answer a little bit down the line, it’s a little early to tell after one round.
“If we get to the latter stages and there are a few Premiership clubs involved, then we can start to look at the reasons why that’s happened.”