Stuart Lancaster
Stuart Lancaster fully supports the RFU's stance on overseas player selectionGetty Images

England head coach Stuart Lancaster admits a relaxing of the overseas player rule, which saw Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon omitted from the 50-man World Cup training squad, would give the country a better chance of winning the William Webb Ellis trophy.

Toulon's Armitage and Abendanon of Clermont Auvergne are the last two winners of the European player of the year award but neither will feature in the showcase tournament due to the Rugby Football Union's policy of not selecting players from foreign climes.

Lancaster "100%" agrees with the policy introduced in 2011, which mirrors the system successfully adopted by world champions New Zealand, but concedes England's chances of repeating their triumph of 2003 on home turf would be enhanced if the rule was ignored.

"We could take a very short-term view as a coaching team which ultimately could perhaps give us a better chance of being successful," Lancaster told reporters. "I complete understand that there is going to be a spread of opinion on the issue.

"Everything was taken into consideration as we talked it through as a group. The RFU and the Professional Game Board [PGB] were unanimous in why they let having the clause in is important."

'Exceptional circumstances'

A clause within the agreement states the rule may be overlooked in "exceptional circumstances", with the RFU's refusal to clarify whether a major tournament on home soil would constitute such conditions giving hope to messieurs Armitage and Abendanon.

And though Lancaster only believes a lengthy injury list would see the clause activated, he has urged the RFU to bring more clarity to the stipulation.

"The reason the policy was put in in the first place was to allow the England coach to select players if there was a crash of injuries," he added. "I understand why it is in place but that is the bit that needs debate going forward."

While the choice to omit Armitage and Abendanon was forced upon Lancaster, the decision to leave out Manu Tuilagi was all of the England coach's own making after the Leicester Tigers centre pleaded guilty to three charges of assault against a police officer.

Tuilagi has been suspended from international selection until January 2016 and his absence is a significant blow to England despite the emergence of Jonathan Joseph during the Six Nations and the form of Luther Burrell.

And even if England suffer a repeat of the injury crisis that has befallen them in recent years, Lancaster says there will be no U-turn over the decision to leave Tuilagi out of the World Cup training group.

"It was disappointing whatever way I looked at it," Lancaster lamented. "The bottom line is when you're an England player and there is an incident of that nature than there has to be a sanction that reflects the incident. I think it is appropriate to do that and consistent with where we have been in the past.

"There is no winner. I feel similar to how I felt with Danny Care [who was dropped after being charged with drink-driving] when I first took the job. The players are role models for huge number of people in the country, youth and old, and it is important than we recognise that responsibility and behave accordingly."