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Top 14-based England centre Joe Marchant wades into eligibility debate

By Josh Raisey
Joe Marchant (Photo by Paul Harding/Getty Images)

While France’s Top 14 and Pro D2 are about to see a considerable influx of England internationals next season, including centurions Owen Farrell and Courtney Lawes, Stade Francais centre Joe Marchant will be part of a small subset of Englishmen based across the Channel who are in the prime of their careers.


While the likes of Farrell, Lawes, Manu Tuilagi, Billy Vunipola and Jonny May have all been great servants to English rugby, they are all in their 30s and some have even retired from international rugby altogether.

Marchant, aged 27, is a member of a contingent, alongside Toulouse’s Jack Willis, Montpellier’s Sam Simmonds, Racing 92’s Henry Arundell and Toulon’s David Ribbans, who are currently at the peak of their powers (albeit Arundell is yet to reach his peak) but unable to represent their country due to the RFU’s foreign-based policy.

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Damian de Allende talks about the plaudits heaped on him by his teammates

The case from England’s perspective to keep the policy in place is a valid one, and it holds water. The lure of playing for England is the main incentive in remaining in the Gallagher Premiership rather than making a lucrative move abroad- remove that and there could be a major exodus in which the league, and in turn English rugby as a whole, will suffer.

But with Top 14 inevitably set to gain an increasingly Anglian hue over the coming years, this debate will only intensify.

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While the players in the twilight of their careers may find it easier to come to terms with not playing for England again, the likes of Marchant will find it harder to accept, particularly as he agreed the move from Harlequins to Stade Francais at a time when he appeared to be exiled by Eddie Jones.

It would be hard to deny Willis a place in an England matchday squad on merit alone, particularly after a legendary defensive display in the Investec Champions Cup final last month, and with Stade Francais finishing the regular Top 14 season in second place, Marchant would likely be in that team with him.


Joining Le French Rugby podcast recently, the centre, who started in all but one of England’s World Cup matches last year before leaving, gave his take on the current RFU policy and his ideal situation for English rugby.

“Look at Jack Willis now,” he said.

“He’s just won a European Champions Cup, he’s won a Top 14, he’s literally done what so many in France want to be doing.

“It’s hard to get in that team. He’s fighting every week to get in that starting team and he’s absolutely nailing it. So that’s not doing him any bad for his career. That’s just making him a better player.

“There’s a load of new lads coming over next year. Obviously, Lewis Ludlam is coming over, Kyle Sinckler, we’ve got Owen Farrel coming over. We’ve got a load of boys.


“It’s just one of those things where I hope England rugby play the best rugby they can and pick anyone they can.

“Obviously, I want to play for England again. I didn’t come here being like ‘nah I don’t want to play for England’. It wasn’t like that at all. It’s just the fact that I didn’t think I was going to and it was an opportunity that I couldn’t say no to.”



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Anthony 33 days ago

With a couple of exceptions the players who moved to France are coming to the end of their careers. Why not maximise their earnings while they can .
England are building a new team and some of those players knew they were on borrowed time .
Its a shame for Marchant as he would have been part of the team but lets face it , he has been messed about by the England management . Was he in or out ?
The English football team suffers because of all the foreign players in the top teams . Rugby is heading that way if its not careful .
Keep the rule . Players know what it means .

john 35 days ago

Looks like he made a bad decision by the time he gets back England May have a settled team

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