Jack Willis will NOT be allowed to represent England following this year’s World Cup after signing a new three-year deal with Toulouse – as the flanker becomes latest to reject future caps under Steve Borthwick in favour of lucrative wages in France
- Jack Willis had special dispensation by the RFU to play in the 2023 Six Nations
- The controversial selection policy prevents overseas players playing for England
- The flanker signed a new deal at Toulouse despite the threat to his future caps
England flanker Jack Willis has signed a new three-year contract with French giants Toulouse in a move which will mean he is set to be unavailable for his country after this year’s World Cup.
Willis, 26, was a key figure for Steve Borthwick’s national side throughout the 2023 Six Nations. He had joined Toulouse after the demise of Wasps earlier this season.
Players who feature for clubs outside England aren’t eligible to wear the white shirt at international level under the RFU’s controversial selection policy.
Because of the collapse of Wasps and the lack of options at other Premiership clubs, Willis was given special dispensation by the RFU to play in the Six Nations.
But Sportsmail understands that dispensation won’t continue. It means that in his coming years with Toulouse, Willis is now almost certain not to play for England.
Jack Willis’ England career will be paused while he plays in France due to the RFU’s controversial selection policy
The Toulouse flanker has signed a new three-year deal at the French giants running until 2026
It is the latest blow to Steve Borthwick who has seen a number of players reject future England caps
It is the latest blow to head coach Borthwick who has already seen an exodus of some of his best talent to France where the wages on offer to players far exceed those available in England.
Luke Cowan-Dickie, Sam Simmonds, Jack Nowell, Joe Marchant and David Ribbans have all also turned their back on the Premiership and future Test caps to play in the TOP14 next season.
It has left English rugby in a state of crisis with the country’s best players looking abroad and being prepared to end their Test careers to do so.
The RFU is now under increasing pressure to change its foreign ruling, but the 11 Premiership clubs and the governing body do not want to do so.
In the Six Nations, Borthwick admitted his preference was to be able to select the best available players for England regardless of where they are based with their clubs.
For Willis, a new deal with Toulouse until 2026 was one he couldn’t turn down given it offers him financial and contractual certainty after a season in which he lost his job at Wasps.
Luke Cowan-Dickie has also turned his back on future England caps by signing for Montpellier
England boss Borthwick had been given special dispensation to pick Willis for the Six Nations
It should also be remembered that Willis suffered a horror knee injury in action for England against Italy in 2020 which ruled him out for a year.
It was a reminder to him that rugby is a short career.
Last month, Willis hinted he was set to extend his stay at Toulouse and that he hoped a change in the RFU ruling would mean he could still play for England.
That, however, looks unlikely at this stage.
‘I think Steve coming out and supporting that just shows there are lots of people behind the scenes that are working to try to find the right solution for English rugby moving forwards,’ Willis told the Evening Standard Rugby Podcast.
‘There are lots of avenues to explore, but the positive thing for me is it seems that hopefully that’s on the table and at least being discussed. We’ll see.’
Toulouse confirmed Willis’ contract extension with a video of the player speaking French. It is clear Willis and his young family have embraced life in the country already.
Willis was ruled out for an entire year after a horror knee injury sustained against Italy in 2020
Toulouse are currently six points clear at the summit of the TOP14 and on for a French and European double
‘I’ve loved my six months with Toulouse,’ Willis said. ‘I’m very happy to extend my contract here.
‘Thank you for your support since my arrival in Toulouse. I love being a part of this group which is ambitious and hardworking.
‘Thank you also to the supporters. You are exceptional.’ At Toulouse, Willis is playing alongside French superstars Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack, Thomas Ramos and many others.
Toulouse are still on course for a French and European double this season. They are six points clear at the summit of the TOP14 and will face Leinster in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup.
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