Zach Mercer to return to England to play for Gloucester next year… as the 25-year-old looks to put himself back in contention to make Eddie Jones’ squad for the 2023 World Cup
- Zach Mercer has agreed to join Gloucester ahead of the 2023-24 season
- He has ruled himself out of international contention by playing abroad
- However, a return to England means he could get back into the England squad
- If he impresses at Gloucester, he could still make next year’s World Cup squad
England exile Zach Mercer has confirmed he will return to the Gallagher Premiership for the 2023-24 season after agreeing to join Gloucester from French giants Montpellier.
Back-row Mercer, still only 25, has two England caps to his name but ruled himself out of international contention when leaving former club Bath for Montpellier in 2021.
Players who feature outside England can’t represent Eddie Jones’ side at Test level, but in his time in France Mercer has excelled.
Zach Mercer previously played for Bath before leaving them to join Montpellier in 2021
He helped Montpellier to win their first TOP14 title last season and excelled in the final after a series of consistently impressive performances across the season.
‘To be given the opportunity to come back and play in the Premiership with Gloucester is one I couldn’t turn down,’ said Mercer.
‘The loyal fans and atmosphere at Kingsholm is something I can’t wait to be part of.
‘Alex Brown, George Skivington and the whole coaching group are building a strong team and a great environment on the field and I believe I can add a lot of value.
‘I can’t wait to be wearing the cherry and white jersey and being part of Gloucester’s future.
‘I have another season here with Montpellier and I’ll be giving all my focus to the club in trying to secure back-to-back titles and European success.’
The last of Mercer’s two England Tests came in 2018, but he will hope his return to English domestic rugby will help him win more international caps in the future.
Mercer’s return to England could boost his chances of getting back into Eddie Jones’ squad
The fact he will become a Gloucester player next summer could yet put Mercer in the frame to feature in England’s training camps and warm-up matches ahead of the 2023 World Cup.
Gloucester head coach Skivington added: ‘We’re building a solid group with very little movement in or out, so to have secured Zach for next season is a testament to the player he is both on and off the field.
‘His performances for Bath and Montpellier are evidence enough of his capabilities. He has a top-class work rate, outstanding ball-carrying skills and is solid in defence.
‘He will undoubtedly bring a further dimension to add to our current back-row.
‘We’ve got a big season coming up which will remain our sole focus. It’s great to have such a talent coming in to compliment the set up next year.’
Elsewhere, new England cap Tommy Freeman has signed a long-term contract with Northampton Saints.
The 21-year-old made his international debut on England’s successful summer tour of Australia after a breakthrough season with the Saints.
Tommy Freeman impressed for England, and has now committed his future to Northampton
‘I’m thrilled to recommit my future to Northampton and am incredibly grateful to the club’s coaches for everything they have done to help me to develop as a player over the last few seasons,’ Freeman said.
‘Chris Boyd gave me the platform to break into the first team and I’m excited about what’s to come with Phil Dowson at the helm. This is an environment I really wanted to remain a part of and everyone in the squad is working hard for next season.
‘Competition in the back three at Saints is always really strong, so I’ve always just tried to focus on grabbing my opportunities with both hands.
‘I love the freedom we are given as a squad to express ourselves on the field.
‘This was obviously an incredible summer for me. It was really exciting to earn my first two caps for England, but now I’m only looking forward at the season ahead and making sure I keep producing my best form for the club.’
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