George Ford has been warned by Eddie Jones that his England career will be over if accepts any approach from Toulon.
Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal is reported to have targeted the Bath fly-half in a move that would reunite him with his father Mike, who is now head coach of the Top 14 club.
England will only select overseas-based players in exceptional circumstances and it is a policy that Jones emphatically endorses knowing that to lose a player of Ford’s potential would be a major blow to hopes of winning the 2019 World Cup.
The 23-year-old playmaker has 18 months left on his current Bath contract, but his future is shrouded in uncertainty.
“I need to talk to George about it,” said Jones, who was speaking from the squad’s hotel at their Algarve training camp. “Obviously we don’t want to lose George, but ultimately he’s got to make a decision about whether he wants to play for England.
“He’s responsible for his own decision. We want him to play for England. He knows that we want him to play for England, but he’s got to want to play for England.
“It’s an easy choice — you either sign for an English club or you sign for a French club. If you sign for a French club, you don’t play for England.
“I am not worried about it. I want players who want to play for England and to play for England, you’ve got to play for an English club. Let’s get one thing straight here, we want to be the number one team in the world.
“To be the number one team in the world we need players who desire to play for England. So there’s no choice here.
“The choice is if you want to play for England or not. If you want to play for England you play for an English club. There’s no more discussion about this.
“The policy we have protects English rugby for the long-term. You’ve only got to look at what’s happened in France where you’ve allowed foreign players to escalate to over 50-60 per cent and you have massive problems for the national game.
“You take some short-term pain for the long-term gain. And this is not an Englishman talking. This is a guy who is coaching England. I think for thyme long-term future of the game we need to look after the Premiership.”
England’s injury crisis shows no sign of abating with Jones revealing that lock Courtney Lawes will be given until Tuesday to prove his fitness from a knee injury and in-form prop Mako Vunipola is struggling with a hip problem.
Worryingly, Vunipola was unable to travel to Portugal with the remainder of the squad and is not expected to arrive in Vilamoura until Tuesday.
“Mako’s got a slight hip problem he’s getting some treatment on. He should be right to train by Thursday. We want Mako to be fit. We’ll see how he comes in,” Jones said.
Jones has added to his backroom staff by recruiting Melbourne Storm defensive coach Jason Ryles on a temporary basis in the belief his rugby league experience will be beneficial.
“We want to bring that harder edge to our defence so he’s in for a couple of weeks to assist Paul Gustard. We brought him over and I think he’ll make a hell of a difference,” Jones said.
“There are certain technical issues we can learn from rugby league and Jason brings those.”
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