Bath Rugby’s young back rower Zach Mercer has signed with French club Montpellier for next season according to a report by the Daily Mail, ending his future chances of playing for England in the process.

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The Mail on Sunday reports that Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad confirmed that Mercer had agreed to terms for next season.

The French club has been a big spender on foreign players in recent years, making Springbok Handre Pollard the game’s highest paid 10 last year, signing him after a big deal for All Black Aaron Cruden didn’t pay off.

The club was reportedly engaged in a tug-of-war for the services of 2019 Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit before the Stormers loose forward decided to stay put in South Africa. They have now secured one of England’s upcoming loose forward talents instead for next season.

The 23-year-old Mercer was capped in 2018 by Eddie Jones and played two tests in the November internationals, coming off the bench against the Springboks and Japan. After the infamous Owen Farrell tackle on Andre Esterhuizen, Mercer won the ensuing ruck penalty to seal the game for England.

After captaining the England under-20 side, he was tipped to be a regular international starter but will now forego England-eligibility by taking up a deal offshore in Top 14.

England’s congested back row stocks made it difficult for Mercer to see more caps, with the likes of Tom Curry, Ben Curry, Sam Underhill, Jack Willis, Ted Hill, Billy Vunipola, Mark Wilson preferred by Jones while other Premiership standouts Sam Simmonds and Alex Dombrandt have also struggled to get selected, highlighting the depth at England’s disposal.

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Mercer’s move will be of most disappointment to Bath fans, who were avid fans of their talented Number 8. One fan described the announcement as a ‘torturous blow’ for the club.

Mercer possessed a diverse skillset with a strong running and offloading game that made him a unique attacking option at the back of the scrum that Montpellier will now enjoy as they look for a return from the big investments they have made.

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The club currently sits 13th out of 14 with just three wins from 11 games this season after moving on from Director of Rugby Vern Cotter in favour of former French wing Saint-Andre .

They finished 8th last season, with six wins, eight losses and three draws and have continued their decline this year, with only winless Agen in a worse position.

 

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