David Strettle has withdrawn from England’s World Cup training squad ahead of his move to French giants Clermont and been replaced by Semesa Rokoduguni, the Rugby Football Union announced Monday.
Strettle, 31, who recently won the English Premiership title with Saracens, was named last month in Red Rose coach Stuart Lancaster’s preliminary 50-man squad for this year’s World Cup in England, which starts in September.
However, he was called up by England before his move to Clermont was made public.
Lancaster has stuck rigidly to the RFU’s longstanding policy of refusing to select overseas-based players for England duty and it was suggested that Strettle, who won the last of his 14 caps two years ago, would not have been included had Twickenham chiefs known about his impending move to France.
Bu ahead of the training squad meeting up for the first time on Monday, Strettle pulled out.
“Clearly a lot has been going on with David recently with the late interest from Clermont and his decision to leave Saracens,” said England coach Lancaster in a RFU statement.
“After visiting France recently and discussing it with his family he has made the decision to move early to get settled before the season in France starts,” Lancaster added.
– ‘Disappointing’ –
“Obviously it is disappointing but David and I have chatted and he feels that, having made the move, he wants to get on with forging his new career and we both agreed it was the best course of action for him to withdraw from the squad.
“We all wish David and his family well in France as they begin a new chapter in their lives.”
Lancaster added: “I will bring in Semesa Rokoduguni, who was very unlucky not to be included in the first instance, and is now looking forward to joining up with the rest of the players.
“Roko is currently in Fiji but he will be with us as soon as possible.”
Strettle, who will join a Clermont side that were beaten finalists in both the European Cup and the domestic French Top 14 competitions last season, said: “The opportunity to join Clermont and the subsequent decision to leave Saracens obviously was difficult and not one I have taken lightly.
“Having now committed to a three-year move at what I feel is the right time in my career and for my family, I would like to begin that challenge right away.
“With the England training camp beginning this week I wanted to be fair to Stuart and the rest of the squad before that started.”
He added: “It goes without saying that I wish England the very best for the tournament and I will be supporting them all the way.
“I am extremely proud to have represented England and will look fondly back on the 14 caps I have won for my country since 2007.”
Fiji-born Rokoduguni, a lance corporal in the British Army as well as a Bath wing, made the only England appearance of his career to date in a 24-21 defeat by reigning world champions New Zealand at Twickenham in November 2014.
“I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity to join England for their World Cup training camp,” said the 27-year-old.
“It’s a huge privilege and I’m really looking forward to meeting up with the boys,” added Rokoduguni, who could face his native Fiji if selected for England’s World Cup opener against the Pacific Islanders at Twickenham on September 18.
All World Cup sides have until August 31 to name their final 31-man squads for the tournament.