The Rugby Football Union are reportedly preparing to offer Henry Arundell a ‘hybrid contract’ after the player’s agent announced that he has rejected approaches from rugby league.
Australian media suggested on Thursday that the 21-year-old was interested in a move to the 13-man code, with his future currently up in the air.
Arundell is on a one-year deal with French side Racing 92 after London Irish’s demise left him without a club for the 2023/24 season.
Teams in England are in the race to bring him back to the Premiership, with Bath and Gloucester especially keen on signing the youngster according to the Daily Mail, but they do not have the financial power of Racing or the NRL.
The immediate concern for English rugby was whether they would lose one of their prized assets to another sport, but that appears to be off the table for the time being.
“Players of Henry’s calibre generate almost constant interest. Whilst we have had a couple of enquiries recently from NRL sides, these are not something Henry has entertained or considered in any way, and we were clear in our response,” Arundell’s agent Ryan Shahin told the Mail.
“Any reports of a possible move to rugby league are false. Henry is excited for the remainder of the season with Racing – and hopefully with England.”
The idea of ‘hybrid contracts’ have been discussed over the past couple of months, which would see the RFU pay clubs a sum of money to retain greater control over a certain number of players.
If, and when, it is approved, 25 individuals will be awarded those contracts, with Arundell ‘high on the list’ according to the Mail.
Six Nations availability
Despite currently plying his trade in France, Arundell is still eligible for the national team and could play in the 2024 Six Nations – providing he does enough to convince head coach Steve Borthwick.
The RFU decided that the flyer should be given an exemption this season after London Irish went into administration in June, which did not give him much time to find a new club.
“In Arundell’s case, he left because he didn’t have a contract, so what we’ve said in a situation like that, it’s no fault of his own, so he can still play for England in the next Six Nations,” RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said following the Rugby World Cup.
“After that, we need to entice the best players to stay in England. We need to support the Premiership – to make sure the product is the best it can be – and also, we prefer those players to be based domestically.”