Toulon-bound David Ribbans accepts end of England road ‘for now’ after World Cup

By Sports Desk September 20, 2023

David Ribbans accepts that his decision to join Toulon means he could be making his final appearances for England at this World Cup.

Former Northampton second-row Ribbans switches to the Top 14 club at the end of the tournament after signing a three-year contract that sees him join the exodus of English players heading across the Channel.

While there are greater riches available in the French league, they come a cost because Rugby Football Union eligibility rules state only those competing in the Gallagher Premiership are available for selection by Steve Borthwick.

It means that Saturday’s clash with Chile in Lille has the potential to become Ribbans’ ninth and final cap for England – a prospect with which he has made peace given the RFU will not soften its stance.

“When I signed for Toulon, the rules were in place and the rules will remain in place. So it was a decision I had to make,” Ribbans said.

“Unfortunately England will no longer be available so this will be the end of the road for now.

“I’m really looking forward to that challenge at Toulon, but for now I’m fully focused on England and being part of this World Cup and seeing how far we can go as a team.”

Of Borthwick’s 33-man World Cup squad, Jack Willis, Joe Marchant and Henry Arundell will also be playing for French clubs next season.

Ribbans knows that their availability for the Six Nations lies in hands of the RFU, which wants to keep England’s stars in the Premiership.

“That’s up to the RFU,” the 28-year-old said. “There would have to be some conversations had, but for now the rules are the way they are.”

Ribbans is set to start in the second row for England’s third Pool D encounter as Borthwick takes the opportunity to rest his front-line stars in the wake of emphatic victories over Argentina and Japan.

It will be Ribbans’ World Cup debut as he takes the next step on a professional career that began at Western Province in 2015.

“I never expected this a couple of years ago, so to come out of a small town called West Somerset in South Africa and to be playing for England has been amazing,” said Ribbans, who qualifies on ancestry grounds.

“My journey to the World Cup has been full of ups and downs but it’s exciting to be here. To be part of this England set-up is really special and I’ve loved every moment of it.”

While eager to make his first appearance in the tournament, Ribbans also appreciates the break from the arduous training sessions for non-playing squad members that are overseen by head of strength and conditioning Aled Walters.

“It’s been a tough two weeks on the sidelines for the fitness sessions! Aled puts us through our paces because we’ve got to keep up with the team,” he said.

“The players bring the hard yards on the Saturday so we’re busy chasing them and want to get our opportunity.

“We’re training hard and training has been good, but there’s always time for some downtime afterwards. But it will be good to get a run-out this weekend.”

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