Jack Willis urges RFU to change selection policy with career in England hanging in the balance

England and Toulouse flanker Jack Willis has urged the Rugby Football Union to reconsider its policy which prevents the selection of players based overseas.

The 26-year-old’s international career hangs in the balance as he is set to remain in France for the foreseeable future having recently agreed a three-year contract extension.

Willis initially joined the Top 14 on a short-term deal in November after being left in limbo when former club Wasps went into administration.

England manager Steve Borthwick has special dispensation to select a back-row striker this season following Wasps’ demise, but that is set to change after the autumn World Cup.

Willis insists it was “not feasible” for him to stay in the Gallagher Premiership due to financial restrictions amid a low salary cap and believes Toulouse is the best place for him to progress and enhance his Test credentials.

“It’s something that I think should be discussed and really needs to be discussed,” he said of the RFU policy.

“It’s not up to me how these decisions go. If it were, I think I know which way I’m going.

“Hopefully they think about it and hopefully things can change to some extent and open up a little bit more about leniency.

“To play for England, you have to play your best rugby and I felt this was the right place for me to grow as a rugby player and be the best player I can be.

“I know those two things are kind of contradictory at the moment, but I’m hoping that ends up changing so they can align slightly better.”

Willis currently lines up alongside the likes of France’s Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack, Thomas Ramos, Julien Marchand and Thibaud Flament at club level, as well as Italy’s Ange Capuozzo.

He was among England’s star players during the Guinness Six Nations and believes Borthwick understands his decision to stay with Toulouse.

With Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marchant, Sam Simmonds, David Ribbans and Jack Nowell all set to move to France next season, the England manager has said he wants the license to pick the best players.

England boss Steve Borthwick may have his selection options limited by RFU policy on players based overseas

England boss Steve Borthwick may have his selection options limited by RFU policy on players based abroad (Adam Davy/PA)

Willis was “blown away” by his club’s support of his England career and felt no need to include specific clauses relating to future international availability in his new contract.

“I really hope the rules change because I know the guys here are going to support that as much as possible,” he said.

“The only thing about Toulouse is that they want their players to play international rugby, whether it’s for France, Italy, Argentina, Australia, England. They know how ambitious we are as players and they want to help us achieve that dream.

“I was kind of blown away by their support and their willingness to do my best and whatever I wanted and needed for the England stuff, they wanted to support me no matter what situation left them here. The give and take was great.

“Day after day, being here, I understood the quality that surrounds me. I would have felt foolish to turn him down, so that’s what my decision basically boiled down to.

“I feel very, very lucky to have ended up in such a special club.”

Willis prepares to face Leinster in the semi-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup in Dublin on Saturday.

Speaking about his conversations with Borthwick, he said: “I let Steve know once I made my decision (about the contract) and it was great.

“Steve has been fantastic since he’s been in charge and I’ve really enjoyed working with him.

“It’s something I really hope I can continue as well because he’s a great coach and has really supported me.”

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