England heading into Six Nations confrontation with French clubs

ROB ANDREW is bracing himself for more rows with French clubs over the release of James Haskell, Tom Palmer and Jonny Wilkinson for England duty during the Six Nations.

Last year, Max Guazzini, the president of Stade Francais, claimed England were holding Haskell hostage when they refused to release him for a key Top 14 match when the Six Nations was on a one-week break.

Andrew, whose role as England's director of elite rugby is set to be scrapped, said it was "inevitable" the France-based players will be placed under similar pressure during this year's competition.

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Stade and Toulon are both mid-table in the French league and face important fixtures on both rest weekends of the Six Nations as they chase a semi-final place.

"We are having dialogue at the moment," said Andrew. "It is inevitable that they will put the pressure on. They have all got big games.

"Inevitably there are going to be issues that we are working through. How they play out we will have to wait and see.

"We have been absolutely consistent from day one with all these guys and the French clubs about what the situation is and it hasn't changed."

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England head to Portugal for a pre-tournament training camp in the last week of January and Andrew sent a firm message to Stade and Toulon that Wilkinson, Haskell and Palmer are expected to be there.

"The French league play on the Thursday night that we are in Portugal. We expect them in Portugal and we expect them to be there when Martin Johnson wants them there," said Andrew.

"If Martin decides they can play at any stage that is a decision Martin takes for the benefit of the player and the England team."

These arguments will end after the World Cup, when England introduce a policy of only selecting players based in this country.

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John Steele, the RFU's chief executive, wrote to all players and their agents in November explaining the decision was based on maximising England's chances of winning the 2015 World Cup.

England's Six Nations squad Forwards – Chuter, Cole, Croft, Deacon (all Leicester), Doran-Jones (Gloucester), Easter (Harlequins), Fourie (Leeds), Hartley (Northampton), Haskell (Stade Francais), Lawes (Northampton), Moody (Bath), Palmer (Stade Francais), Payne (Wasps), Shaw (Wasps), Sheridan (Sharks), Thompson (Leeds), Wilson (Bath), Worsley (Wasps).

Backs – Armitage (London Irish), Ashton (Northampton), Banahan (Bath), Care (Harlequins), Cueto (Sale), Flood (Leicester), Flutey (Wasps), Foden (Northampton), Hape (Bath), Hodgson (Sale), Simpson (Wasps), Strettle (Saracens), Tindall (Gloucester), Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon), Youngs (Leicester).