Jack Willis reveals how working with sports psychologist helped free his mind at Toulouse

Willis has added new things to his game in France (Getty Images)
Willis has added new things to his game in France (Getty Images)

Jack Willis has freed his mind at Toulouse, and now wants the silverware to follow.

The former Wasps flanker helped Europe’s most decorated club lift last season’s Top 14, the French top-flight that remains the toughest domestic league across the continent.

Now the 27-year-old will be gunning for his old English rivals Harlequins in Sunday’s Investec Champions Cup semi-final.

And Willis revealed the brains behind his unshackled approach as renowned sports psychologist Katie Mobed, who has worked with everyone from Marcus Rashford to Team GB.

Starring among the galacticos of Toulouse was never going to be straightforward, but Willis is shining brighter than ever, and has now explained how.

“From a rugby point of view I think I’ve learned to give it everything I can on the training pitch and during the week, but probably take a little bit of pressure off myself,” said Willis.

“It probably got to a point where I was putting a lot of pressure on myself daily, which can get quite exhausting, and probably bog you down a little bit.

“I feel a lot freer mentally, I’ve been doing some work with a psychologist as well, which has been incredible.

“I can name drop her because she’s great at what she does, Katie Mobed, she’s brilliant and a big support to me.

Willis is not available for England due to playing in France (PA)
Willis is not available for England due to playing in France (PA)

“I think that helps a lot, I think it frees me up going into games, and that’s quite important.

“If you feel bogged down mentally that does make a big difference.

“I’m not saying I was in a bad headspace at all, but I think you just have lots going through your mind, and you need to organise things correctly. And I certainly feel a lot freer on the pitch.”

Five-time winners Toulouse have home-city advantage, but not home turf, with the match being staged at the city’s football ground.

Willis has knowingly foregone further England honours during his stint in France, with the RFU sticking to the policy of refusing to select overseas-based players.

While he can always return to home shores in future in a bid to resume his England career, Willis only found himself in France as a result of Wasps falling into administration.

The accomplished breakdown operator has added a new muscularity to his ball-carrying this term, to add another layer of ferocity to his game.

Generational talent Antoine Dupont heads a stunning cast-list of superstars at Toulouse, all hungry for sustained success.

There can be fewer more pressured environments on the rugby map, but Willis revealed that, with Mobed’s expert help, he has been able to learn to harness that stress to his advantage.

“Yeah it is about harnessing it and utilising it, definitely,” said Willis.

“I certainly feel I enjoy it now, whereas I probably went through a phase of not so much.

“I think now the pressure feels like a positive thing rather than a negative.

“And I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do out there each weekend and just trying to be the best version of myself for the club.

“I was fortunate enough to win the Top 14 last year here, and I think that feeling certainly didn’t feel like I had fulfilled everything by winning that. All it made me want to do was win it again – and win more.

“Everything starts at the top, with the structure put in place, from the president all the way down to the players.

“I fell in love with the attitude and atmosphere the minute I got here.”

Toulouse are heavy bookies’ favourites for Sunday’s clash, but Quins were major outsiders in their quarter-final and still managed to topple the much-vaunted Bordeaux 42-41 at Stade Chaban Delmas.

Willis could hardly be better acquainted with Quins on all fronts, and admitted Toulouse must keep their wits about them in what promises a full-throttle attacking clash.

“If you give them an inch they will take a mile,” said Willis.

“If you watch the way they play and when they get a bit of momentum behind them, the confidence lifts, all their chests puff out, and off they go.

“It is just crucial for us to get going early and not let what happened at Bordeaux happen to us, basically.”