French clubs line up to sign England outcast Zach Mercer after latest snub

Jared Wright
Zach Mercer of Montpellier Herault celebrates after their side first try during the Top 14 match between Stade Francais Paris Rugby and Montpellier Herault Rugby at Stade Jean-Bouin

Zach Mercer of Montpellier Herault celebrates after their side first try during the Top 14 match between Stade Francais Paris Rugby and Montpellier Herault Rugby at Stade Jean-Bouin.

Gloucester number eight Zach Mercer is attracting interest from French Top 14 clubs following his latest England snub.

The back-rower returned to the Premiership at the start of the season after a hugely successful stint at Montpellier, and despite signing a long-term deal with the Cherry and Whites, he has been linked with a return to France.

The two-Test cap England international had returned to the Premiership in an attempt to revive his Test career, and while he was called up to Steve Borthwick’s training squad ahead of the World Cup, he wasn’t afforded any game time before being released.

Despite some fine form for a struggling Gloucester side, Mercer was also overlooked for the 2024 Six Nations squad and was not included in the England A squad for the clash against Portugal.

He responded to his latest snub with a magnificent performance against Exeter Chiefs in the Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final, steering the Cherry and Whites to a 17-14 victory.

Zach Mercer’s CV doing the rounds

According to a report by RugbyRama, the lack of international recognition has not gone unnoticed across the Channel, and his CV has been doing the rounds at French clubs with a potential return to France’s top division on the cards.

Racing 92 was one of the clubs that were reportedly interested, with Englishman Stuart Lancaster at the helm of the Parisian club. However, the club’s salary cap constraints quickly hindered a move as they already have Springboks captain Siya Kolisi on their books, with Owen Farrell arriving next season.

A return to Montpellier, where he won the Top 14 and was crowned the player of the season in 2022, was also believed to be on the cards but will reportedly not materialise due to similar reasons as Racing as they have Sam Simmonds filling the role currently.

Toulon are the third club mentioned by the report as the club continues its search to sign a centre and number eight ahead of next season. RugbyRama states that Toulon are “carefully studying the possible recruitment” of Mercer and adds that his CV has been circulating for “several weeks” at Top 14 clubs.

As mentioned above, Mercer did sign a long-term deal at Gloucester ahead of the 2023/24 season, meaning that any club wishing to sign the 26-year-old would need to pay the Cherry and Whites a transfer fee to buy him out of his contract.

It is becoming a common theme for French clubs to pay transfer fees to sign players still under contract, and given Mercer’s pedigree in the Top 14, it would not be out of the question for a side to fork out a hefty sum to secure his services.

England lose key playmaker for Calcutta Cup but Ollie Lawrence in contention to start

Ackermann re-signs

Meanwhile, Gloucester announced last week that South African back-rower Ruan Ackermann has signed a contract extension at the club after several weeks of speculation.

Ackermann expressed his interest in returning to South Africa and was believed to be in talks with the Lions and Sharks but ultimately opted to remain at the side that he joined back in 2017.

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