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England's Lions pair linked with French Top 14 moves

By Paul Smith
(Photo by Getty Images)

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French publication Midi Olympique today suggests that two England internationals who were also prominent members of the recent British & Irish Lions tour party are eyeing moves to the Top 14.


The specialist sports paper runs the story under the headline: Englishmen Sam Simmonds and Mako Vunipola are arriving?

The story states that “Exeter and British Lions back-rower Sam Simmonds could cross the Channel if Eddie Jones persists in ignoring his excellent club performances.”

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It goes on to identify Toulon as the Top 14 club believed to be showing interest in signing the man who last season broke the Gallagher Premiership’s try-scoring record by claiming 19 touchdowns.

The Chiefs’ 26-year-old flanker or no.8 has won only seven England caps since first being called into Jones’ squad ahead of the 2017 Autumn Series.

England’s boss has instead kept faith in the much bigger Billy Vunipola whose drop in form during Saracens’ season out of English rugby’s top flight saw him miss out on Lions selection.

By following another out-of-favour England hopeful, former Bath forward Zach Mercer, to France Simmonds would make himself ineligible for his national team.


The second player identified by Midi Olympique’s story is experienced two-time Lion Mako Vunipola who it believes will shortly be out of contract at Saracens.

It states: “The powerful loose head has already started discussing an extension with his club, but his financial demands (around 460,000 Euros per season) could be too high for Sarries.

“The 30-year-old would interest several ambitious Top 14 clubs such as Lyon, Toulon, Stade Francais and Clermont.”

Clubs in the French Top 14 have historically operated with very few financial constraints which makes it an attractive proposition for players whose years as big earners are coming to an end.


A move away from the English game would however see Vunipola forego around £20,000 for each England cap he missed out on.

However, the cuts to the salary cap which English clubs agreed last year will impact on players who are now reaching the end of contracts which are typically of two-year duration.


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