"Eye-Opening and Honest" Jack Willis talks Wasps Collapse and Learns French - Ruck

“Eye-Opening and Honest” Jack Willis talks Wasps Collapse and Learns French

England back-rower Jack Willis has come into the spotlight within recent weeks, as the conversation about his England eligibility has been re-ignited.

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Reportedly signing a new deal with Toulouse, Willis is expected to remain in France’s Top 14 league, limiting his future in the England shirt.

The RFU are currently in the midst of deciding whether or not players based outside of the country are eligible for England. Willis has been a key player within recent weeks, since his return to the squad in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

The 26-year-old made his comeback in the very same fixture that side-lined him two years ago with a catastrophic knee injury, and marked the occasion with a try against Italy.

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)

Willis was recently featured on England Rugby’s official social media accounts, giving a heartfelt re-calling of the collapse of his boyhood club Wasps. The Coventry side entered financial administration in October of last year, and Willis remembered the fateful day all too well.

Jack Willis of England during the England Rugby Captains Run ahead of the Six Nations Match between Wales and England at Principality Stadium, London on 24 Feb 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

“I managed to go on the tour to Australia with England, which was great, great experience and then just working hard over the summer. And then unfortunately, after only a few games back, everything that happened at Wasps, was just a bit of a whirlwind to be honest with you.

“Going into administration and everything that came with that, it didn’t just affect me, it affected my family, my friends, everyone who’s supported me throughout my career so far with it being my boyhood club.

“And I can’t tell you how difficult that was. being in that room the day we were told, and that realisation that I may never play alongside my brother again, some of my best mates again that I’ve played along alongside for about eight years. It’s pretty difficult to describe how that felt if I’m honest.”

Willis has settled well into life in Southern France, having muscled his way into the Toulouse back row in no time at all. A player of Willis’ calibre could not be overlooked once he became a free agent, and was fortunate to receive offers from the top clubs across Europe.

Willis is picking up the local language, with a recent England Rugby ‘O2 Inside Line’ video showing the flanker trying to get to grips with learning French.

However, some of Willis’ Wasps teammates have not experienced such fortunes, which the flanker discussed on England’s social media channels.

“As it always is in rugby, you don’t have much time to feel sorry for yourself. I was very fortunate to get picked for the Autumn Series, and I was running on my own for a week or so up at the training ground, and then was straight into England camp.

Ange Capuozzo of Italy is tackled by Jack Willis of England during the Six Nations Match between England and Italy at Twickenham, London on 12 Feb 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

“So I was quite lucky that I got to sort of carry on doing what I do, and I’ve been very fortunate since. I feel incredibly grateful that Toulouse, and a club that’s as great as Toulouse has picked me up and given me that opportunity, when there’s still some of my top mates that have found this whole process quite difficult and struggling to find the next their next opportunity.

“Coming off the back of what was something so difficult, I feel incredibly grateful to be wearing a Toulouse shirt, and in recent weeks being able to put on put on an England shirt as well.”

Five England stars won’t be able to play again after the 2023 World Cup

Five England international rugby players will not be able to represent their country in the iconic white jersey after announcing their move to France following the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

#1. David Ribbans

Northampton Saints have confirmed that the forward will depart the Club at the end of the 2022/23 season. Reports suggest he will join Toulon.

The 27-year-old lock has pulled on the Black, Green and Gold jersey 115 times to date, starting 98 matches for Northampton and scoring 17 tries so far.

“As a coaching group, we are very proud of the progress Dave has made during his time at Saints,” said Director of Rugby, Phil Dowson.

“He arrived in Northampton as a 21-year-old without many Super Rugby appearances to his name. He will leave as a fully-fledged England international and a proven performer in the Gallagher Premiership, one of the most attritional and competitive leagues in the world.

“You always want to create an environment for players where they can work hard, thrive, win matches and be successful on the international stage. Sometimes, that means players become attractive propositions for other clubs.

“Dave leaves to pursue a playing opportunity in France next season. It’s disappointing to lose a player of his calibre, and we were surprised Dave wanted to leave the Club at this time.

“But he is of course a professional, and will be putting all his efforts in his final months in Northampton to ensure the team is as successful as possible. We will wish him well after that.”

David Ribbans of England during the Autumn Nations International Series match between England and South Africa at Twickenham, London on 26 November 2022 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)