Liverpudlian in Lyon Carl Fearns has set his sights on playing international rugby for France following a telephone conversation with England boss Eddie Jones – but will have to wait longer than he was expecting to don Les Bleus’ jersey.
The flanker was in the middle of a tug-of-love between Top 14 side Lyon and English Premiership outfit Gloucester earlier this year, before opting to remain at the French club he had joined from Bath in 2015.
He told The Daily Mail that he agreed to join Gloucester this summer, intending to push for an England call-up, but a phone call from Jones – in which, Fearns said, Jones called him ‘a whinger and a moaner’, who ‘would not last 15 minutes’ in international rugby – helped him decide his future remained in the shadow of the Alps in southeast France.
So, in June, the 28-year-old signed a new three-year deal with Lyon, effectively ruling himself out of the England reckoning, due to the RFU’s policy of not selecting overseas-based players.
Fearns, who has been nominated for the Top 14 Player of the Year award for the 2016-17 season, along with New Zealand’s Victor Vito and France’s Remi Lamerat, added he would be open to a call up to Guy Novès’ France squad – if only to prove Jones wrong.
“If I’m wanted by the French national team, I would do it – 100 per cent.” he said. “I want to play international rugby. I feel like when I play against international players, I am at their standard, so I want to test myself at that level.”
“I qualify for France at the end of this season, so we will see what happens there. It’s something I would seriously think about. I will have just turned 29 by then, so if it’s possible, I will look at it.”
But there’s a problem. While Fearns could, technically, qualify for France through the Sevens squad, Bernard Laporte, the embattled president of the French Federation de Rugby (FFR) announced in December 2016 that France will no longer select non-French citizens for the national side.
“We told World Rugby that we had made a decision not to select foreign players even if the regulations allow,” said Laporte, as he announced the decision.
Fearns does not have a French passport and has not lived in the country long enough to qualify for citizenship.
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