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Jack Willis' England exile set to continue

By Ian Cameron
Jack Willis of Toulouse after the Investec Champions Cup Pool 2 Round 3 match between Ulster and Toulouse at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The exile of sometime England flanker Jack Willis is set to continue with news that he has formerly extended his stay with French Top 14 giants Toulouse.

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Willis will be playing in the Pink City up until 2026, having chosen to take up an optional two-year extension, Midi Olympique report.

With injury frequently afflicting French star Anthony Jelonch, Willis’ presence in Toulouse has proved particularly valuable.

He told Midi that: “I know that I am in my place for the next three years.”

The standout back row originally arrived in France in 2022 following the collapse of Gallagher Premiership side Wasps. He has now twice decided to stay in France, a decision that has likely come at the cost of any future England selection. The RFU increasingly strict attitude to overseas player selection suggests that the extension of the flanker’s French sojourn means it’s unlikely England head coach Steve Borthwick will be allowed to pick him.

Willis featured England at the Rugby World Cup and was a try-scorer against Chile on September 23 but it was to be his sole appearance at France 2023 after a neck injury saw him miss the remainder of his country’s campaign.

Last year Willis insisted it “wasn’t feasible” for him to remain in the Gallagher Premiership due to financial restrictions amid a squeezed salary cap and feels Toulouse is the best place for him to progress and enhance his Test credentials.

“It’s something that I think should be discussed and has to be discussed really,” he said of the RFU policy that rules out players who are playing their club rugby abroad. “It’s not up to me how these decisions go. If it was, I think I know which way I’d be heading for.

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“Hopefully they think it through and hopefully things can change to a degree and open up a little bit more on the leniency.

“To play for England, you’ve got to play your best rugby and I felt like this was the right place for me to develop as a rugby player and be the best player I can be.”

“I know those two things sort of contradict at the moment but I am hoping it ends up changing so they can align slightly better.”

additional reporting PA

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