Henry Arundell to put England career on hold by staying in France

Henry Arundellof Racing 92 during the Top 14 match between Racing 92 and Stade Rochelais at Paris La Defense Arena on November 26, 2023 in Nanterre, France
Arundell joined Racing 92 this season - Getty Images/Hugo Pfeiffer

Henry Arundell is to turn down the opportunity to play for England during this season’s Six Nations Championship by signing a new contract extension with Racing 92, Telegraph Sport can reveal.

It is understood the 21-year-old has decided to turn down the offer of a new hybrid contract from the Rugby Football Union and a move to Bath next season, and instead pledge his immediate future to the Paris-based club in the Top 14. An official announcement is expected next week.

Arundell had initially been cleared to play for England this season despite being based in France because of the exceptional circumstances surrounding the demise of his former club, London Irish, but was told 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.

However, as reported by Telegraph Sport on Friday, the Professional Game Partnership negotiations mean his participation in the Six Nations relies on him having signed an RFU hybrid contract for the 2024-25 season.

Bath were the frontrunners to claim the signature of a player who scored five tries for England in the World Cup match against Chile and also made an explosive start to his tenure at Racing, scoring four tries in two starts for his new club, including a hat-trick on debut at Toulon.

However, it seems that the lure of working under former England head coach Stuart Lancaster and being part of a squad stacked with world-class talent that is leading the charge at the top of the Top 14 has convinced the former London Irish player that his game will develop more rapidly by spending two years in France before potentially moving back to England to put himself in contention for the 2027 World Cup.

The introduction of hybrid or central contacts was part of the new long-form agreement that was initially conceived as a way of giving England head coach Steve 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.