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Jack Willis addresses England return post-Toulouse win

By PA
TOULOUSE, FRANCE - MAY 05: Jack Willis of Toulouse looks on during the Investec Champions Cup Semi Final match between Stade Toulousain and Harlequins at Le Stadium on May 05, 2024 in Toulouse, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Jack Willis has developed an emotional attachment to Toulouse that indicates a prompt return to England is unlikely.

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Willis added a Investec Champions Cup winners’ medal to the Top 14 honours he claimed last season after Leinster were defeated 31-22 in extra time at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday.

The 27-year-old flanker was magnificent in defence, emerging as the most prolific tackler by a distance with 30 in a match that was widely considered Test-match standard.

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But he remains off limits to England head coach Steve Borthwick, who is only permitted to select players competing for Gallagher Premiership clubs in a rule that for the time being leaves Willis stranded on 14 caps.

It was assumed that joining Toulouse was a short-term solution to Wasps’ financial collapse in 2022, but as the silverware rolls in his bond with Europe’s most successful team grows stronger.

“For me there’s lots of things to consider when you talk about a move,” Willis said.

“After leaving Wasps, there were a lot of emotions. Trying to deal with joining another club in England is a hard thing. No one probably realises how difficult that is.

“I probably escaped a little bit being out at such a great club where we have had a chance to win a Top 14 and a Champions Cup.

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Points Flow Chart

Toulouse win +3
Time in lead
0
Mins in lead
79
0%
% Of Game In Lead
77%
74%
Possession Last 10 min
26%
10
Points Last 10 min
19

“The emotions I feel right now is that I am incredibly grateful. I have been welcomed into a group that have shown nothing but respect to me and have welcomed me with open arms. That’s all I am thinking about.

“I have just won the Champions Cup. If you had told me two years ago that I would be winning a Champions Cup, I would have thought that you were mental.

“There were a lot of lows with Wasps and I was not playing as much as I would have wanted in certain games, so to be welcomed in Toulouse – I can’t tell you how grateful I am.

“My family have been welcomed and there are so many good blokes here. I’m just so grateful to be a part of this group and to be able to try to add to it.”

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Even Willis’ outstanding shift in defence was overshadowed by the all-round brilliance of Toulouse star Antoine Dupont, who was named player of the match and then European player of the year.

“Antoine made 4 turnovers! He can do everything! Hell of a player. He added a hell of a lot,” Willis said.

“As far as I have seen, he’s probably the best rugby player of all time. He has helped me win two trophies.”

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Comments

10 Comments
J
John 26 days ago

England has Curry, Earl so adding Willis to the backrow could be a win…He looked great in the final but then again Toulouse probably beats the England test side so…

j
jeremy 27 days ago

One thing that gets overlooked is that Willis only plays for Tolouse. He can look his best surrounded by players who know him and compliment his game. Often English players in France are given a roving role to look good.
England play in a completely different way, more structured. He may not be suited by that way.
Also he had chances but kept getting injured.

f
finn 27 days ago

In 2020 Willis looked like one of the best flankers in the world. When he came into the England squad he did well, but struggled to establish himself as the first choice openside.

In 2021 Simmonds looked like one of the best number 8s in the world. When he came into the England squad he did ok, but never came close to matching his club form and could have really struggled to make the world cup squad.

In 2022 Mercer looked like one of the best number 8s in the world, but then had a much less impressive 2023 and now doesn’t look likely to get a call up.

Maybe we don’t need to change the eligibility rules for Willis.

A
Alexander 27 days ago

He'll be one that got away because of a dumbass England ruling. Could give them a very complete back row but hey ho.

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