Jack Willis: Blow for England as flanker signs three-year deal with Toulouse

Colin Newboult
Toulouse jack willis manu tuilagi england sale sharks

England's Jack Willis during the Guinness Six Nations match at Twickenham Stadium, London. Picture date: Saturday March 11, 2023.

Jack Willis’ England future is in doubt after he signed a three-year deal with French outfit Toulouse, which will keep him at the club until at least 2026.

The flanker agreed a contract with Le Rouge et Noir following the demise of Wasps, who were put in administration in October 2022.

“It’s official – our English back-row is staying at the Stadium and is signing up for three new seasons (including two as an option). He is thus part of the club’s 2027 trajectory,” a Toulouse statement said.

Eligible during Six Nations

It was initially just a short-term move, and he was eligible for England in the Six Nations under the RFU’s ‘exceptional circumstances’ rule – due to the financial issues which almost brought about the end of Wasps.

There were strong rumours that the 26-year-old would be returning to the Premiership, but those have subsided in recent weeks.

Willis has therefore committed his future to Toulouse, making him ineligible for the Red Rose.

The dispensation should continue until after the Rugby World Cup but, following that tournament, Steve Borthwick will not be able to pick the talented back-row if the RFU’s policy remains.

Better news on Manu Tuilagi

One player who was expected to leave after the Rugby World Cup was Manu Tuilagi, but he could now be remaining in England, according to Sale Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson.

Tuilagi has endured an injury-hit career but will feature in Borthwick’s plans should he remain fit ahead of the global tournament.

Initially, the 31-year-old was then going to depart the country and sign a deal with either a French or Japanese club, but that could change.

Earlier in the campaign, Sale could not afford to keep the midfield powerhouse. However, money has opened up for the Sharks to potentially offer Tuilagi an acceptable deal, with the former Leicester Tiger enjoying his rugby in Greater Manchester.

“We had no money, then we had a bit of money, and now we have got twice as much money than we did have. I’m going to Lymm to sit down with him to see if it’s enough,” Sanderson said.

“I know he wants to stay, so this is just a question of whether his family can survive on it and how much he is willing to sacrifice. I guess I will be buying lunch.

“I am happy to tell you that everything is positive (on Manu) and close. I can’t confirm as yet, but it is more positive and closer than it has ever been.”

Positive signs

He added: “Everyone knows that until the cat is in the bag and your chickens have fully hatched, you can’t call it with retention or recruitment – but all the signs are good.

“Manu wants to stay. It was pretty hopeless, but where there is a will, and things have happened that weren’t in our control months ago that have allowed us to come back to the table.

“But until it’s done, people come in as always – the French are late to offer contracts, and Japan also.

“Given the curve balls I have faced in the past, you just can’t put away one of those outlying factors that can affect what we want to happen.

“It is really close. It is in the laps of agents, and if it was my decision and you could take agents out of it, then it would have been done weeks ago.

“I want it done quicker, and so does Manu, but it is in the corporate ether.”

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