"Bleak" - Jack Willis appeal to play for England has been turned down - Ruck

“Bleak” – Jack Willis appeal to play for England has been turned down

The latest developments suggest that Jack Willis’s hopes of playing for England after the 2023 Rugby World Cup are bleak.

Following the demise of Wasps, the flanker joined Toulouse and signed a new three-year contract with the French club. However, this move seems to have dimmed his chances of representing England.

Players who left either Wasps or Worcester were granted special dispensation to continue playing for England until the conclusion of the 2022/23 season.

However, a source involved in the negotiations reveals that players who moved for “commercial reasons” will no longer receive this dispensation if they are based in France.

In Willis’s case, he rejected offers from Premiership clubs to stay at Toulouse, thereby making himself unavailable for the 2024 Six Nations. Although his contract is officially listed as a three-year deal, it operates as a 1+1+1 agreement.

Jack Willis of England during the England Rugby Captains Run ahead of the Six Nations Match between England and Italy at Twickenham, London on 11 Feb 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

This means that the 26-year-old has the option to activate a break clause at the end of each season. If he chooses to do so next season and secures a move back to an English club, he could potentially be considered for the summer tour to New Zealand.

On another note, there is growing confidence among Harlequins that fly-half Smith will remain with the club, despite strong rumors linking him to a move to Racing 92 with Arundell. Smith’s contract at the Stoop will expire at the end of the 2023/24 season, and recent talks with Racing have cooled down.

While removing himself from the England picture would be a risky move at this stage of his career, it is known that Smith desires to broaden his horizons by playing in a foreign league.

Nonetheless, Quins insiders are mindful of his ambitions and remain hopeful that he will eventually stay at the club.

“12 players left at home” – England’s 2023 Rugby World Cup squad as it stands

Steve Borthwick has made it abundantly clear in a recent media session, that he is being up-front with his players regarding their chances of making the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Borthwick has left selection ambiguity behind in the Eddie Jones era, and is reportedly in constant communication with his players ahead of the trip to France. Borthwick is tasked with the challenge of cutting down his wider training squad to 33 players, and has been vocally clear-cut with his side at Pennyhill Park.

Borthwick told The Guardian: “I believe players want to know exactly where they stand.” “In week one and two, we had players come in and I sat with them straight away and said: ‘This is where you stand and this is what I think you need to do to move forward.’”

“That’s the first thing I do. Why? As a player, I always remember that I wanted to know what I needed to do. I didn’t want ambiguity. My job was to get on with rugby and train, not to be second-guessing anything.”

On Saturday August 5th, England will take on Wales in Cardiff, before Borthwick announces his 33-man squad on the following Monday, August 7th. Borthwick will then finalise his squad, and continue on with the Rugby World Cup warm-up preparations. England are booked in with a return fixture against Warren Gatland’s side at Twickenham, before facing Ireland in Dublin, and then Fiji back at ‘HQ’.

Owen Farrell, Captain of England leads his side in the national anthem during the Autumn Nations International Series match between England and South Africa at Twickenham, London on 26 November 2022 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

England then kick-off their Rugby World Cup in Marseille, in a hotly anticipated clash against Argentina on the 9th of September. Here are RUCK’s predictions for the positional hierarchy, for England’s Rugby World Cup squad pecking order.

Note – This 33-man squad is dependent on the fact that all of the named players in the 41-man wider training group are match fit and available for selection, currently injured players have an asterisk next to their name.

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FIRST CHOICE SQUAD

Front Row

Ellis Genge of England during the England Rugby Training Sessions at The Lensbury Hotel, Teddington, London on 26 Jun 2023 (Photo: George Beck/PPAUK)

1. Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears)

2. Jamie George (Saracens)

3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears)

Locks

4. Maro Itoje (Saracens)

5. Ollie Chessum* (Leicester Tigers)

Back Row

Try Celebrations for Jack Willis of England as he goes over for a try during the Six Nations Match between England and Italy at Twickenham, London on 12 Feb 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

6. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks)

7. Jack Willis (Toulouse)

8. Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins)

Halfbacks

A dejected Owen Farrell of England applauds in the direction of the England supporters at full-time following the Guinness Six Nations match between England and France at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on Saturday 11th March 2023 | Photo: James Fearn/PPAUK.

9. Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers)

10. Owen Farrell (Saracens)

Centres

12. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)

13. Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks)

Back Three

Freddie Steward of England during the Six Nations Match between England and Italy at Twickenham, London on 12 Feb 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

11. Anthony Watson (Leicester Tigers)

14. Max Malins (Saracens)

15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers)

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