Willis signs new deal with Toulouse despite threat of England exile

Flanker Jack Willis signs new contract with French club Toulouse until the summer of 2025 despite the threat of England exile after RFU rejected calls to extend his special dispensation after the World Cup

  • Willis became a key figure in the England pack during the Six Nations
  • But the flanker will not be eligible to play for England after the World Cup
  • The RFU are refusing to change their selection rules for overseas-based stars

Jack Willis has signed a new contract with Toulouse which could keep him at the French club until the summer of 2025 – but his hopes of playing for England after the World Cup remain in doubt.

The 26-year-old flanker who became a key figure in the Red Rose pack during the recent Six Nations has agreed terms with Toulouse to extend his stay for at least another season, with the option to play on there through the 2024-25 campaign too. 

Having been left in career limbo after the sudden collapse of Wasps, Willis has thrived in exalted company at his new club, surrounded by superstars such as France captain Antoine Dupont.

This season, England head coach Steve Borthwick has been given special dispensation to pick Willis under the ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause in the RFU’s policy which prevents the selection of players based abroad. 

However, as first revealed by Sportsmail, requests on behalf of the player for this dispensation to cover the full term of a longer contract were rejected by the union, under pressure from Premiership clubs to curb a cross-Channel exodus of talent.

 Flanker Jack Willis became a key figure in the England pack during the Six Nations

Willis is desperate to maintain his Test career, but has found himself in an awkward predicament for reasons outside his control. 

He was happy at Wasps, only to be left unemployed when the Coventry-based club went into administration and were relegated. 

Since then, he has not received compelling offers to return to this country at a time of budget cuts within the league. 

Bristol were rumoured to be interested, but could not put forward a meaningful deal.

So Willis has opted to stay at Toulouse and now he must hope that Borthwick can exert enough pressure of his own to secure some leeway from the RFU, in order to be available for selection after the World Cup this autumn. 

Speaking to the Evening Standard this month, the openside said: ‘There are lots of people behind the scenes working to find the right solution.

‘There are lots of avenues to explore. The positive thing for me is that hopefully that (dispensation) is on the table, and at least being discussed. We’ll see. Steve’s been fantastic with me throughout this Six Nations – his support and his work with Toulouse.

‘Toulouse have been brilliant as well and showed how smooth that process can be. There have been lots of conversations back and forth about what would be best for me being involved with England and how can we help with Toulouse if they needed me for the weekend.’

The flanker’s hopes of playing for England after the World Cup remain in doubt

England boss Steve Borthwick was given special dispensation to pick Willis this season

Meanwhile, Saracens director of rugby, Mark McCall, has revealed that Owen Farrell – captain for club and country – did not suffer a significant injury against Harlequins last Saturday, as initially feared. 

The fly-half limped off 10 minutes from the end of a Premiership fixture at Tottenham Stadium after appearing to roll his left ankle, but he may recover in time to face the Ospreys at StoneX Stadium on Sunday, in the last 16 of the Champions Cup.

‘Owen took part in some of the training today so we are relatively optimistic that he’ll be available for this weekend,’ said McCall. 

‘He didn’t need a scan. He was much better on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, so as long as there’s no reaction to training today, I’m sure he’ll be okay.’

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