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VIDEO: Inside the Toulouse camp with Jack Willis

WATCH as Stade Toulousain-based England international Jack Willis talks about life in France and looks forward to the Champions Cup Final.

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Speaking to Rudy Paige and Juan de Jongh on Behind the Ruck podcast, the loose forward admitted that finding the balance between domestic and European competitions is a challenge.

He was speaking after Toulouse’s impressive 49-18 win to snatch the Top 14 lead from Stade Francais last weekend, he revealed they are ready for Leinster in the big Euro Final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 25.

“After the semifinal, we focussed on [the] Stade Francais [Top 14 match] and the group [of players] that will be involved in the next couple of weekends,” he told the podcast.

He added that the excitement is building towards their big Euro date.

“It is hard not to get excited about it,” he said, adding: “It is the first time for me playing in a European Final.”

He also spoke about the ‘crazy’ French fans and how much the Champions Cup means to those teams.

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A powerful scavenger for possession, he learned the game at Reading Abbey and joined the Wasps for the 2015/16 season.

The move to Toulouse led to the flank featuring in the side that won the Top 14 title with the club in 2023

Willis had received special dispensation from the Rugby Football Union to be selected by England for the World Cup.

It was October 2022 when his club Wasps folded.

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After signing for Toulouse the following month, he was permitted to remain England-eligible for a short-term period despite playing in France.

 

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Willis was named in Steve Borthwick’s squad for the 2023 World Cup in France, but was injured in the pool match against Chile and missed the play-offs with a neck strain.

However, he is no longer eligible to play for England – while he is based in France.

“That is the biggest negative to being out here [in France,” Willis said.

“When you make these decisions, you have to balance everything – not just one issue.

“My family and financial stability was a key factor for me, after losing my job [at Wasps],” he added.

He admitted the South African model – of allowing overseas-based players to represent the country – works for the Springboks.

“Playing in the best leagues is what develops you as a player,” Willis said.

“For me, having that different style has developed my game.

“Having that ability to have new experiences and still be eligible [for your country], for me, it is the right thing.

“There is a lot more to it.

“The Premiership has had a tough couple of years. They want to keep people going to the games and keep the money in the game.

“I understand that and have no resentment. I made a decision and it is what it is.”

He said his ambition to play for England will never fade away.

Willis also opened up about Wasps going under and all the players losing their income.

He said moving to France was the best for his career, as moving to another Premiership outfit would have been “very tough” – as some of his former teammates found out.

Then there was the 18 months he missed through a succession of injuries and his neck injury at the World Cup.

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