Jack Willis has revealed that the reality of Wasps’ recent downfall truly hit home when he embraced his younger brother Tom with the knowledge they were unlikely to play together again.
Wasps, who are set to be relegated, joined Worcester Warriors earlier this month as the second club to go into administration which meant all the Coventry-based outfit’s 167 players and staff were dismissed.
They are battling to find a buyer willing to take on debts totalling more than £50million.
Wasps‘ players and staff received the distressing news at the club’s training ground 10 days ago and when Willis returned home he was “reluctant to go back through the door because I didn’t really want to cry for the 20th time that afternoon”.
A hard reality
Willis‘ son Enzo gave him a cuddle upon arrival while his partner Megan provided emotional support, but it was still difficult to come to terms with the fact that he would no longer play alongside his younger brother Tom.
“We were all pretty stunned. We didn’t expect the news to be so immediate. We were just expecting to be told that administration was official, not that we were all made redundant,” said Willis from England’s training camp.
“Everyone was upset and we were all going up to each other. I was quite upset immediately, then I’d sort of compose myself, go up to someone else and get upset again.
“Then I went up to my brother and that, for me, has been the hardest part of it. I don’t know what the future holds but I love playing with him and alongside him.
“Seeing some pictures of Tom and me over the years when I was scrolling back through photos to put together a post on social media was incredibly difficult. The post took me a couple of days.
“It was entertaining waking Megan up at 7am blubbering looking at my phone! I look back at some of the photos of the memories we’ve created and they’ll last forever.
“Some of the pictures of us with a bit more puppy fat, slightly chubbier cheeks, going from playing an academy game together to playing in a Premiership final together. Incredible journey.
“We didn’t end it how we’d have liked to. We were building something and over the coming years we could have achieved real success.”
While Willis is fighting for a place in England’s starting line-up for their Autumn Nations Series opener against Argentina on November 6 and as a highly rated back-row he is sure to be picked up by another club, many of his former Wasps club-mates are in less fortunate positions.
“Everyone is leaning on each other where they can. Everyone is in different scenarios,” Willis said.
“There are a couple of lads who have signed for sides and hopefully we keep seeing more and more of that.
A bleak situation
“There are some lads that may not find clubs and some that may make the decision to retire because of the fact that, with the salary cap restrictions and the current economic climate, the situation is pretty bleak out there.
“It’s tough, but we’ve all reached out to each other and are still standing by one another as much as possible.
“I feel incredibly grateful to be involved in the England setup regardless, but in this scenario it’s given me such an incredible positive focus.
“I’ve got the opportunity to learn around these fantastic players, fantastic coaches, otherwise I’d be just running around a field on my own at the moment until I find a club. So I feel very lucky to be here.”