England starlet Henry Arundell snubs lucrative offers from Australian rugby league teams… with RFU ready to offer Racing 92 wing a ‘hybrid’ contract in bid to lure him back to the Premiership
- Henry Arundell moved to France after the financial collapse of London Irish
- He has been given special dispensation to play for England during Six Nations
- RFU want him to return to England amid interest from Bath and Gloucester
England wing Henry Arundell has rejected lucrative offers from two rugby league clubs in Australia, as the prolific rookie seeks to enhance his Test ambitions in union.
The 21-year-old announced his arrival at Paris club Racing 92 in stunning style last Sunday, by scoring a debut hat-trick against Toulon on the Cote d’Azur.
Days later, reports Down Under suggested that Arundell was seriously considering a code switch to join the NRL, but Mail Sport understands that he has knocked back interest from Wests Tigers in Sydney and the Queensland-based Dolphins.
Arundell’s agent, Ryan Shahin – of Twenty Sports Group – said: ‘Players of Henry’s calibre generate almost constant interest. Whilst we have had a couple of enquiries recently from NRL sides, these are not something Henry has entertained or considered in any way, and we were clear in our response.
‘Any reports of a possible move to rugby league are false. Henry is excited for the remainder of the season with Racing – and hopefully with England.’
England wing Henry Arundell has rejected lucrative offers in a bid to further his Test ambitions
After scoring five tries in one pool-stage match against Chile during the World Cup, Arundell will spend the season at Racing, armed with special dispensation to play for England during the Six Nations.
This is because he had to find a new club after the sudden financial collapse of London Irish, where he had come through the ranks.
A decision about his plans after this season is expected to be made before Christmas. Arundell is being pursued by Bath and Gloucester, but it is understood that Racing are able to offer almost 50 per cent more than those Premiership suitors.
However, the RFU are hurriedly finalising plans for a new system of ‘hybrid’ contracts, designed to keep leading English players at home – and Arundell would be ‘high on the list’ to be among the group of 25 players awarded those deals.
Speaking at the end of the World Cup, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said: ‘In Arundell’s case, he left because he didn’t have a contract, so what we’ve said in a situation like that, it’s no fault of his own, so he can still play for England in the next Six Nations.
After that, we need to entice the best players to stay in England. We need to support the Premiership – to make sure the product is the best it can be – and also, we prefer those players to be based domestically.’
Asked if the union could guarantee that the likes of Arundell and Joe Marchant – the England centre who has joined Stade Francais – would be among the recipients of a hybrid contract, if they agreed to come home, Sweeney added: ‘Yeah, we can do that.
‘It doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to get selected, but to be in that 25 means you are clearly part of a core English group.’
The 21-year-old scored a hat-trick on his debut for French club Racing 92 last Sunday
Meanwhile, the British & Irish Lions have confirmed an ‘historic’ deal with Premiership Rugby, which means English players will be available for all pre-tour training and other activities, ahead of the 2025 trip to Australia.
It marks a welcome end to the familiar cycle of fixture clashes and tension which has been a backdrop to all previous Lions tours in the professional era. The Premiership final will take place earlier in 2025, to allow those selected rest and adequate preparation.
Lions chief executive Ben Calveley said: ‘Our relationship with the clubs, who are the guardians of all potential Lions, is critical to any success we have, and we are committed to working with Premiership Rugby and United Rugby Championship in a spirit of collaboration.
Lions chairman Ieuan Evans added: ‘To achieve our ambition of success on the pitch, we need our very best players, and this partnership is crucial to this.’
Premiership Rugby chief executive Simon Massie-Taylor said: ‘We know how much The British & Irish Lions means to our players, clubs and fans.
Giving our players and the Lions the best preparation time in history is vital for both the Lions and Premiership Rugby. We are now looking forward to seeing as many Premiership players as possible competing for a Test jersey.’
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