Trio quit Wasps to play in France

Wasps have confirmed that the England trio of James Haskell, Riki Flutey and Tom Palmer will leave the club at the end of the season to play in France.

Flanker Haskell and lock Palmer are moving to Paris with Stade Francais, while centre Flutey is to join Brive.

Wasps have expressed concern at the financial clout of French clubs, who do not have salary cap restrictions.

“In financial terms we are no longer on a level playing field,” said Wasps executive chairman Mark Rigby.

“It does raise great concern that French clubs can now blow the English clubs away when it comes to salaries.

“There is a wider concern that the development of English rugby players will only be hampered as they move away from the Premiership, which stands as the best domestic league in the northern hemisphere, and regular head-to-head competition.”

Reports have suggested that Flutey and Haskell may enjoy as much as a three-fold increase in their respective salaries.

The departures will also concern the Rugby Football Union as from next season, the trio will fall outside the eight-year access agreement between England and the Premiership clubs.

The French clubs have an obligation to release the players for Tests but not for additional training weeks.

The agreement allows England manager Martin Johnson to name a 32-man squad at the start of every season.

He can then call them up for an August training camp, a fortnight of preparation before both the November Tests and the Six Nations, and an end-of-season tour.

Haskell, 23, who made his England debut in the 2007 Six Nations, has played in the opening two games in this year’s tournament – winning his 14th cap in the defeat by Wales last Saturday.

Flutey will join England team-mate Andy Goode at Brive after signing a two-year deal.

The 29-year-old New Zealand-born back has won six caps for England and scored his first international try in the Six Nations opener against Italy.

Flutey was last season’s Professional Rugby Players’ Association player of the year.

Prior to signing for Wasps, Flutey enjoyed a spell at London Irish having previously played for Hurricanes in New Zealand.

England World Cup winners Ben Cohen and Steve Thompson are also at the club, who are sixth in the French league.

Palmer, who joined Wasps from Leeds in the summer of 2006, has won 13 caps for England since making his debut as a replacement against the United States in 2001.

He started the autumn Tests against Australia and South Africa but was ruled out of the Six Nations after shoulder surgery.

Other English exiles currently plying their trade in France include former Sale flanker Magnus Lund (Biarritz) and former Leicester prop Perry Freshwater (Perpignan).