English rugby needs to ask itself “serious questions” because playing for England is “no longer the pinnacle”, says former captain Will Carling.
Current captain Owen Farrell has been linked with a move to Racing 92 while winger Henry Arundell has signed an extension with the French club.
Rugby Football Union (RFU) regulations do not allow overseas players to be selected for the England squad.
“Playing for your country still needs to be top notch,” Carling said.
“It needs to be something the player enjoys doing.
“Let’s be honest – that’s clearly not the case at the moment.”
Farrell, England’s record points scorer, announced last year that he would take a break from international duty “to prioritize his and his family’s mental health”, ruling him out Six Nations in 2024 regardless of any moves.
Reports in France have linked the 32-year-old with a transfer although Racing have denied there is a deal in place.
Arundell, who scored five goals on his World Cup debut against Chile in September, initially joined Racing after London Irish went bust but an extension signed in December made him ineligible to play for England. .
Flanker Jack Willis and centre-forward Joe Marchant are the others in England’s 2023 World Cup squad to have signed for France.
Carling said: “The appeal of playing for England for me is unbelievable, so you have to ask some very serious questions and I think people in the right positions need to ask ‘why? Why do people quit playing for their country?’” BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“There’s a guy [Farrell] who has given an incredible service to England – and to Saracens – and if that is his choice then you respect it immensely.
“It’s the young players that worry me. Owen has had a great career so if that’s how he wants to end his career then I think we can all respect that.
“It’s some of the other people who are leaving – people with careers ahead of them – that worry me.”
The purpose of the RFU rule of not allowing overseas players to be selected for the England team is to protect the quality of the English league by ensuring the best English players play in it, while also helping The RFU have more control and better access to England or potential England players.
Last year, manager Steve Borthwick called for a review of the policy.
Many Premier League clubs are financially constrained – Wasps followed Worcester into administration in October 2022 – and as a result players can earn more playing abroad.
Carling said administrators “must get English rugby back to the top”.
“We should have a game here that attracts the best talent – British and foreign – and I think we therefore need to look at how the game is going,” he said.
“Let’s be honest – it hasn’t been good for a long time.
“It has left the game in its current state. We need to change our mindset and build a game that inspires young people.”
– This story first appeared on [BBC https://www.bbc.com/sport/rugby-union/67953379]