Jack Willis has signed a three-year deal with Toulouse to place his England future in grave doubt.
Willis has made his short-term move to the Top 14 permanent having proved a success at the French giants, whom he joined after Wasps entered administration in October.
“It’s official – our English back row is staying at the Stadium and is signing up for three new seasons (including two as an option). He is thus part of the club’s 2027 trajectory,” a Toulouse statement said.
England’s restriction on picking players based abroad was lifted for the recent Six Nations, in Willis’ case using ‘exceptional circumstances’ on the basis of Wasps’ demise.
But by extending his time at Toulouse rather than returning to the Gallagher Premiership, the 26-year-old turnover specialist will test the determination of the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby to stand by the rule.
The RFU and PRL are under pressure to loosen the restriction on England players based overseas amid a growing number of stars heading across The Channel.
However, they see it as essential to maintain the appeal of the Premiership as well as giving head coach Steve Borthwick greater control over his squad.
Willis established himself as England’s first-choice openside during the Six Nations and is highly valued by Toulouse.
The turnover specialist is a regular starter for the Top 14 leaders, including in the two recent Heineken Champions Cup knockout matches that have secured a semi-final against Leinster on April 29.