RFU performance director Conor O’Shea confirms former London Irish wing Henry Arundell will be eligible for 2024 England Six Nations selection despite signing for Racing 92 in France; Joe Marchant (Stade Francais), Dave Ribbans (Toulon) ineligible; Jack Willis (Toulouse) now ineligible
Last Updated: 10/10/23 7:54am
Henry Arundell will be available for England in next year’s Six Nations, despite joining French club Racing 92, due to the ‘special circumstances’ rule following the demise of his former club London Irish, the RFU has confirmed.
However former Wasps flanker Jack Willis, who has signed a contract extension with Toulouse, will not be eligible having gone beyond the 12-month window the RFU introduced in recognition of players having to find new clubs at short notice after Irish, Wasps and Worcester all went out of business last season.
Arundell, 20, who was left out of the England squad that beat Samoa 18-17 on Saturday despite scoring a record-equalling five tries in the previous match against Chile, joined Racing in July on a one-year contract.
Willis signed for Toulouse last November after Wasps collapsed but was allowed to play for England in this year’s Six Nations. After helping Toulouse win the Top 14 title he agreed a three-year contract extension in April.
Willis left the England squad last week after a neck injury ended his World Cup.
“What we said was that any players who were (abroad) as an outcome of their clubs going out of business and needed to find employment overseas as a result and couldn’t get a contract in England, they would be available for the Six Nations in 2024,” RFU CEO Bill Sweeney said at a media briefing.
“We believe that will be the case with Henry [Arundell]. We will work very hard with him and with the Premiership so hopefully he can get a contract to come back to England in 2024-25.”
England’s performance director Conor O’Shea said he hoped the situation with Arundell would be confirmed in the next few weeks.
“To clarify, people like Joe Marchant and Dave Ribbans who have gone abroad (not because of their clubs collapsing), will not be available,” he said.
“We are just awaiting PRL feedback about that exemption for Henry, given that 12-month gap from when London Irish went into administration, to coming back.
“But that wont apply to Jack Willis because it’s beyond the 12-month gap.”
The RFU and the Premiership are close to agreeing a deal that will include hybrid contracts for 25 players that will give the national team more control over their training and preparation – but not club selection.
We are working with Rugby Players’ Association to make England the best place to play professional rugby, not just in terms of money – player welfare plays a key role there,” Sweeney said.
“We stand with the Premiership in wanting the best English players playing in England.”
Details on the new arrangement and its time frame remain vague but O’Shea said it was planned in collaboration with the clubs.
“They will only play for England while they are here (in camp),” he said. “But we want them in an environment where they are looked after, both on and off the pitch, both financially but also in the longevity of their career.
“And when you get the best core group of players together over a consistent period of time they are exemplars to others within the system. The great teams have consistency of the best people on the pitch and that is the driver behind this.
“It’s the best for club, it’s the best for country, it’s the best for the player.
“We have got a bit of a head start with the work we have done with the Red Roses (the England women’s team) and how we collaborate with clubs on that.”