In-form England outcast Zach Mercer directly responds to France rumours after Six Nations snub

Colin Newboult
Zach Mercer, English number eight, in action for Gloucester

Zach Mercer, English number eight, in action for Gloucester.

Number eight Zach Mercer has decided to ‘put to bed’ rumours that he will cut short his time at Gloucester and head back to France.

The 26-year-old started his career at Bath before he moved to Montpellier after being left out in the cold by then-England head coach Eddie Jones.

His only caps came during the 2018 end-of-year series, but he was one of the players to pay the price for their disappointing performance against Japan.

Mercer crossed the Channel in 2021 and immediately shone, prompting Jones to pick up the phone and lure him back to the Premiership with the promise of international action.

Change of coach

His deal with the Cherry and Whites was confirmed in August 2022, just over a year out from the Rugby World Cup, but in December England sacked their head coach.

Steve Borthwick came in and has yet to be convinced by the number eight, surprisingly leaving him out of his World Cup squad.

The 44-year-old then omitted Mercer for the Six Nations before the back-row even failed to make the England A squad for their match with Portugal.

Conor O’Shea, who is the RFU’s executive director of performance rugby, attempted to explain his absence by saying that they are trying to get “balance” in their two squads.

“There would be players that Steve might pick tomorrow that would be ahead of some of the players that are potentially there now, and it’s getting that balance,” O’Shea said last week.

“We said this right from the start about young players popping out of the U20s that we want to keep that connection amongst them as well as the senior players and it’s getting that balance. Listen, it’s a massive honour to play for your country at any level and this is a big Test match against Portugal, but we are trying to balance.

“You could look across and say there are a number of players, ‘Should they be in?’ Every position has been discussed with what’s right for this particular game as opposed to what would be happening if you were running out into the Six Nations, plus making sure we have the strongest type of team available.

“That’s the rationale behind some of the selections. And Steve has spoken to a couple of players who might think, ‘Are we second in, are we third in the team and we’re not in this’ and he has spoken to them.”

CV sent out

However, some still regard his omission from the A side as a snub and it has been reported in France that his CV has done the rounds at Top 14 clubs.

Mercer signed a three-year contract ahead of the 2023/24 season but it is not unusual for French teams to pay a transfer fee.

Rumours about a possible move back to France are therefore increasing, but the number eight insists that he is not going anywhere.

“In regards to the rumours, they were bound to come out at some point with me not getting picked for the World Cup or the Six Nations, I feel they were always going to come back out that I was going to try and go back to France,” he told The Rugby Pod.

“But I can put that to bed now and I am committed to being at Gloucester. I have got another three years left there so I want to have a crack there.

“We have got a chance of winning some silverware this season, obviously not the Premiership but we will try and fight and get up the table in that, but in the European Challenge Cup and Prem Cup we have a chance to win something.”

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