Jack Willis unlikely to return to England after more top honours with Toulouse

Jack Willis has developed an emotional attachment to Toulouse that indicates a prompt return to England is unlikely.

Willis added a Investec Champions Cup winners’ medal to the Top 14 honours he claimed last season after Leinster were defeated 31-22 in extra time at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday.

The 27-year-old flanker was magnificent in defence, emerging as the most prolific tackler by a distance with 30 in a match that was widely considered Test-match standard.

But he remains off limits to England head coach Steve Borthwick, who is only permitted to select players competing for Gallagher Premiership clubs in a rule that for the time being leaves Willis stranded on 14 caps.

It was assumed that joining Toulouse was a short-term solution to Wasps’ financial collapse in 2022, but as the silverware rolls in his bond with Europe’s most successful team grows stronger.

“For me there’s lots of things to consider when you talk about a move,” Willis said.

“After leaving Wasps, there were a lot of emotions. Trying to deal with joining another club in England is a hard thing. No one probably realises how difficult that is.

Jack Willis added Champions Cup glory to Top 14 honours
Jack Willis added Champions Cup glory to Top 14 honours (PA)

“I probably escaped a little bit being out at such a great club where we have had a chance to win a Top 14 and a Champions Cup.

“The emotions I feel right now is that I am incredibly grateful. I have been welcomed into a group that have shown nothing but respect to me and have welcomed me with open arms. That’s all I am thinking about.

“I have just won the Champions Cup. If you had told me two years ago that I would be winning a Champions Cup, I would have thought that you were mental.

“There were a lot of lows with Wasps and I was not playing as much as I would have wanted in certain games, so to be welcomed in Toulouse – I can’t tell you how grateful I am.

“My family have been welcomed and there are so many good blokes here. I’m just so grateful to be a part of this group and to be able to try to add to it.”

Even Willis’ outstanding shift in defence was overshadowed by the all-round brilliance of Toulouse star Antoine Dupont, who was named player of the match and then European player of the year.

“Antoine made 4 turnovers! He can do everything! Hell of a player. He added a hell of a lot,” Willis said.

“As far as I have seen, he’s probably the best rugby player of all time. He has helped me win two trophies.”