“Wasps is where I want to be. I’m looking forward to playing my part in helping us push on.” Jack Willis
One of the rising stars of English rugby, back-row forward Jack learnt his first rugby lessons with Reading Abbey RFC. After captaining Wasps U18s, he joined the club’s Senior Academy in 2015. He impressed during a loan spell with Coventry RFC and made his senior Wasps debut in the Anglo-Welsh Cup game at Sale in November 2016. His first try came the following week, at home to Worcester in the same competition. His Premiership debut followed a fortnight later in the home win over Sale. After making eight senior appearances, he was named Academy Player of the Season and rewarded with a senior contract for 2017/18.
He made the most of his opportunity, firmly establishing himself as first choice in a competitive position and making twenty-five appearances. His first Premiership try, at Saracens, capped a memorable day for the Willis family as his younger brother Tom had just come off the bench to make his Premiership debut.
Along the way, he picked up a Premiership Player of the Month award and was named Wasps Young Player of the Season. His outstanding form won him selection for England’s summer tour of South Africa. Agonisingly, he was ruled out by a serious injury in the play-off semi-final defeat at Saracens.
He made a storming return when he came off the bench early in the game at Leicester, at the beginning of March 2019. A week later he was back in the starting XV, but another injury brought his season to an early end.
This season, he has been in sensational form, with pundits regularly naming him in their Premiership Team of the Week. When the season was suspended, he was leading the Premiership turnover statistics by a country mile. He has also scored eight tries, many of them close-range efforts which were the result of using his enormous strength and agility, but his most recent score, in the last game we played, saw him make an interception from a lineout and sprint half the length of the field for a remarkable try against Gloucester.
Still only twenty-three, he has made forty-six senior appearances and scored ten tries.
LIST | 5 wonderkids who could star for England at 2023 Rugby World Cup
The England XV that started the 2019 Rugby World Cup final was the youngest ever to play in rugby union’s showpiece, with every member of the starting side 30 years of age or younger.
However, head coach Eddie Jones – with his new deal locked in – believes a squad evolution will be necessary before France 2023, saying the current team ‘doesn’t have another World Cup in them’.
Here are five players who could potentially break into the England set-up…
1. Josh Hodge
- Current number of caps: 0
- Position: Fullback
- Age at the start of RWC 2023: 23
One of England’s most exciting upcoming talents, the fullback is built in the same mould as All Black Damian Mckenzie. Safe under the high ball and blessed with incredible pace, expect him to play a key role f=or Newcastle Falcons on their return to the Premiership. Hopefully he’ll then be in a place to make a bid for international honours.