The exodus of players from the North of England has been well documented over the years, but many may not understand the full extent of the problem.
The news recently that highly rated players James Gaskell and Rob Miller are set to leave Sale Sharks to try their hand at London Wasps was met with some surprise. Both players have been in or around the Saxons in recent years whilst Sale are riding high in the Aviva Premiership. Despite this, both players felt they had a better opportunity to further their England ambitions by playing in London.
This is a trend that has been ongoing for years now in Rugby Union with talented youngsters moving South to the more ‘fashionable’ Premiership clubs. This has seen both Leeds Carnegie and Newcastle Falcons drop out of the top flight as they failed to keep hold of key players.
Although the Falcons have managed to bounce back up, Leeds have not been so lucky and have been forced to begin building from the ground up once again. Despite Newcastle now being back in the Premiership, their lack of star quality has seen them struggling to achieve much more than keeping themselves out of the relegation scrap.
To highlight the issue, below is our Northern Exiles XV. This side is made up of players who grew up in the North of England but have now opted to ply their trade in the South. Most of these players are still part of the England set-up or have been involved at some stage in their careers and has seen the team amass a total of 321 caps for England between them which equates to over 21 caps per player on average;
1 – Fraser Balmain
Highly rated young Leicester Tigers prop Fraser Balmain may have a host of top talent in front of him but will be hoping to break into the England team at some stage.
2 – Rob Webber
Hailing from York, Rob Webber is now making his mark for Bath and would more than likely have added to his 5 England caps had it not been for injury and the excellent form of Dylan Hartley and Tom Youngs.
3 – David Wilson
Another North-Easterner now playing at Bath, David Wilson has cemented his place as England’s current second choice tighthead prop with 32 caps already to his name.
4 – Geoff Parling
Geoff Parling’s move to Leicester Tigers in 2009 has seen him become a key part of the current England squad and also gave him the opportunity to tour with the British & Irish Lions.
5 – Steve Borthwick
Although now retired from international rugby, Cumbrian Steve Borthwick has amassed 57 caps for England and is set to claim the title of most Premiership appearances later this year.
6 – Carl Fearns
Liverpool-born player Carl Fearns has gone from strength to strength since swapping Manchester for Bath and is believed to be on the fringes of the current England squad.
7 – Calum Clark
The dynamic flanker has a couple of red marks on his record but has now managed to claim his first Saxons cap and could be set for more in the future.
8 – Sam Dickinson
Snapped up from Championship side Rotheram, Manchester born Sam Dickinson has swiftly been drafted into the Saxons squad and could be set for more with the recent injury to Billy Vunipola.
9 – Danny Care
Currently the form scrum-half in England, Leeds born Danny Care has been in sensational form for England so far in the 2014 Six Nations.
10 – Toby Flood
He might be off to France at the end of the season but Flood has amassed 60 caps for England having swapped Newcastle for Leicester.
11 – David Strettle
Strettle may not have received the international recognition his try-scoring form would suggest but the Cheshire born winger has been a stand-out for Saracens in recent seasons.
12 – Owen Farrell
Although Farrell may have claimed the England 10 jersey for his own in recent seasons, the 22 times capped player is more than capable of slotting into the centres.
13 – Luther Burrell
Since moving south to Northampton Saints Burrell has been quickly drafted into the England set-up and has been on top try scoring form in his 3 games so far.
14 – Chris Ashton
Although he may have recently fallen out of favour with Stuart Lancaster, the rugby league convert has still amassed 37 caps for the Red Rose.
15 – Ben Foden
Foden may have moved to Northampton in the hope of playing at scrum-half, but has now established himself as one of the foremost English full-backs in the league.
Do you think more should be done to try and keep these players in the North?