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Blow for England as Jack Willis is ruled out of the Rugby World Cup

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Ramos/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Jack Willis has left Steve Borthwick’s squad at the Rugby World Cup, with a replacement expected to be in camp by the time England start their preparations at the top of next week in Marseille for their October 15 quarter-final.

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The back-rower was a try-scorer versus Chile on September 23 but that will now be his sole appearance at France 2023 as a neck injury will see him miss the remainder of his country’s campaign, starting with this Saturday’s Pool D finale versus Samoa in Lille.

Head coach Borthwick explained: “All players were fit and available for selection apart from Jack Willis. Jack unfortunately suffered an injury in the game versus Chile that he has worked to recover and rehab from. Unfortunately, he has been unable at this stage to get fit.

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“What that has meant is that Jack has left the squad and his replacement will be announced in due course. We are really disappointed for Jack. He has been a really important member of this team.

“He has done really well, played an important role in the Chile game, an important member of this squad in this last period of time. The injury will be just a few weeks but clearly the timescale we are operating in has meant that he will be replaced in the 33.”

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Asked to be more specific about the injury which forced England into taking a decision on Wednesday night to move on without Willis, Borthwick, added: “It’s an upper-body injury, around his neck.

“Really disappointed for him, we’re disappointed he is not going to be continuing this World Cup with us but we anticipate he will be back on the field very soon. A replacement will be in camp for the start of next week. It’s not confirmed (who it will be), I’ll confirm in due course.

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“Jack is naturally very, very disappointed. His return to being back on the field has already started, he is getting stuck into the work that needs to be done, but it was confirmed last night (his tournament is over.”

Willis had received special dispensation from the RFU to be selected by England for the World Cup. It was last October when his club Wasps folded.

After signing for Toulouse the following month, he was given permission to remain England-eligible for a short-term period despite playing his club rugby in France.

That dispensation expires at the end of this World Cup, meaning that Willis’ Test career is now on hold unless the RFU changes its regulations. Borthwick, though, didn’t want to get into a discussion about this red tape.

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“I am really disappointed for him for this World Cup, for this game this weekend and this tournament. As for anything else, we can discuss that after the tournament.”

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