Henry Arundell will not be available for England in the forthcoming Six Nations unless he chooses to leave Racing 92 at the end of the season and sign a hybrid contract with Bath and the Rugby Football Union, Telegraph Sport understands.
In October, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said that Arundell, 21, would remain eligible for England duty this season under the exceptional circumstances surrounding the demise of his former club, London Irish, but that he would be unavailable for the summer tour of New Zealand unless he agreed a Premiership return for the start of the 2024-25 season.
Telegraph Sport understands, however, that the shifting landscape surrounding the Professional Game Partnership negotiations means that Arundell’s participation in next year’s Six Nations relies on him having signed an RFU hybrid contract in partnership with another club for next season.
Telegraph Sport revealed on Wednesday that Bath were leading the race to bring the highly-rated Arundell back to the Premiership, in partnership with English rugby’s governing body.
Arundell now faces a 50-50 choice between accepting the hybrid offer between the RFU and Bath, which will ensure his full England eligibility for this season and beyond, or remain at Racing 92. It is understood that the hybrid offer financially trumps that of the Top 14 side and that the utility back is expected make a decision on his future as early as next week.
His rugby development appears to be at the centre of the decision. Despite scoring five tries against Chile during the World Cup in France, he was a marginal figure in Steve Borthwick’s squad and despite featuring in the bronze final victory over Argentina, did not receive a pass and made little contribution. Whether he can force his way into the England starting XV at the start of a new World Cup cycle remains in doubt.
By remaining in Paris, he would benefit from the tutelage of former England head coach Stuart Lancaster and play alongside world-class talent including Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, which could accelerate his development before returning to the international stage in time for the 2027 World Cup.
It will be the first major test of the introduction of ‘hybrid or central contacts’ as part of the new long-form agreement that was initially conceived as a way of giving Borthwick more hands-on control of conditioning and skill development of players in his squad.
But significantly it has now evolved into the latest incarnation of a method of keeping the best English talent playing in the Premiership at a time when moving overseas has the potential to be more lucrative than remaining in England and playing international rugby.
It is understood that behind the scenes the RFU has already accelerated matters with regard to players who were identified as high risk of moving overseas and were firmly in Borthwick’s plan ahead of the finalising of the details of the new professional game partnership set to start next summer.
Arundell’s situation is further complicated following push-back from the Premiership clubs after Sweeney declared in October that players such as Arundell who had to move overseas as an outcome of their clubs going bust would be available for selection for this season’s Six Nations Championship under the exceptional circumstances rule.
“What we said was that any players who were [abroad] as an outcome of their clubs going out of business, and needed to find employment overseas as a result and couldn’t have a contract in England, they would be available for the Six Nations in 2024,” said Sweeney in October. “That’s the case with Henry Arundell; we would stand with Henry on that one.”
“Where we do support the Premiership is in that we do want the best English players playing in England. In Henry’s case, he will be available for the 2024 Six Nations, then we will work very hard with him and with the Premiership, so hopefully he can get a contract to come back to England in season 2024-25.”
A decision to remain in France beyond this season however, would put his availability in jeopardy.