"Something Has to Change" - Jack Willis slams RFU decision - Ruck

“Something Has to Change” – Jack Willis slams RFU decision

England back-rower Jack Willis wants the RFU to allow their players the opportunity to play for overseas clubs, whilst remaining in contention for England selection. Willis currently plays for Toulouse in France’s Top 14, and is allowed to represent his country under the ‘exceptional circumstances’ ruling.

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)

This allowance for Willis is possible after he was forced to leave his former club Wasps, when the Coventry side’s financial collapse withdrew them from the Gallagher Premiership last October. The RFU will review the guidelines for internationally-based players after the 2023 Rugby World Cup, which could potential put Willis’ England career in jeopardy.

Willis made his return to the England squad during the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, after a traumatic knee injury against Italy kept the flanker side-lined from England for two years. He coincidentally marked his international return against the Azzurri, even scored a try on his comeback.

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)

However, the back-rower has recently committed his future to France, after agreeing a three-year deal with Toulouse. With his England future on the line, Willis spoke about the impact of the tightening grip of the Premiership’s salary cap regulations, and how we hopes the RFU will allow for foreign based players like him, to be picked by Steve Borthwick.

“It is something I think should be discussed and has to be discussed,” he said to the Guardian. “Where the current salary cap lies it is not feasible for things to carry on the way they are and also for clubs, with the salary cap being so tight, being an England player or being involved in the England setup, is not appealing to clubs at the moment because if you are involved in the England stuff you are away for half the season and (the Premiership clubs) don’t really get the financial benefits for it.”

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)

“You get caught in between in that zone, you are almost less valuable to them. I think something has to change. Hopefully they think it through and things can change to a degree and open up a little more on the leniency.”

The collapse of Wasps and Worcester Warriors, was a stark reminder of professional rugby’s mortality in the global sporting sphere. the 26-year-old recalled how his boyhood club fell out of the Premiership, and the factors that influenced his decision to move to France.

Jack Willis wins Aviva Premierships Player of the Month for February 2018 with Wasps

“With everything that happened at Wasps and what happened at Worcester, there were a lot of players who filled a lot of the slots that were still available. We know how the cap is tighter next year (because) there are teams that have been backloading contracts for the following year after that.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on with the salary cap which meant the cap had been maxed out for numerous clubs. Other clubs who didn’t do that still didn’t have the money to necessarily spend. Between those two things it just wasn’t feasible for me to stay (in England).”

Willis plays alongside a star-studded team at Toulouse, with French maestro’s Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack and Thomas Ramos decorating the back line. Italy’s enigmatic flyer Ange Capuozzo adds an extra dimension to ‘Stade Toulousain’, who are on track for a Top 14 and Heineken Champions Cup double. Toulouse take on Leinster this weekend at the Aviva Stadium, in a semi-final clash for the ages.

Antoine Dupont of France calls for the mark during the Six Nations Championship match between England and France at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on March 13 2021. – PHOTO: Micah Crook/PPAUK

Willis discussed his home in France’s ‘Pink City’, away from the worries of the Premierships salary cap. Willis will soon be joined by a selection of English Premiership stars for next season’s Top 14 campaign, as the likes of Exeter Chiefs stars Sam Simmonds, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jack Nowell are all heading to France in the Summer. Willis feels grateful to have worked his way into Toulouse’s all-star starting line-up, and is able to relax and focus on his rugby, away from the financial issues in England.

“(Premiership Clubs) were incredibly limited because of the salary cap issues and everything that was going on, I got to a point where I couldn’t really believe how great a club I was at, I’d have felt stupid to be turning that down.

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)

“The main thing for me came down to the quality of rugby that I would be playing and developing as a rugby player,” he said. “That’s what it really came down to. Day in, day out here I realised the quality that I am surrounded with in the players and the staff. I felt silly turning that down.”

“I couldn’t have picked a better club to be at and I think playing in a game like this at the weekend shows I feel like I’ve made the right decision.”

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#1. Tom Varndell

Oxford Harlequins welcomed the former premiership record try scorer who will take on a dual role combining his rugby management career with his exceptional rugby talent.

Varndell has agreed to assume the position of Head of Rugby at Oxford Brookes University, which has close links to Oxford Harlequins.

In addition to his management role, he will also become the Head of Community at the club, while still playing for the team.

Marcus Boswell, the student sport manager at Oxford Brookes had the following to say about their star capture;

“To secure someone of Tom’s calibre, as a coach and a mentor, is of great excitement for both our current and prospective students who are looking to play rugby union,

“It goes without saying that the relationship between Oxford Brookes and Oxford Quins continues to go from strength to strength, and this announcement is another indication of that.

“We will continue to work hard in all areas of our sporting delivery and wider area of activity together, and reap the successes both on and off the pitch for our student athletes.”