George Ford has insisted that he has no intention of effectively ensuring a premature end to his England career by seeking a move to Toulon. The Bath fly-half has inevitably been mentioned in connection with a possible switch to the wealthy Top 14 giants since father Mike Ford was promoted from his role as backs coach and took control of first-team affairs at the Stade Mayol following the sacking of Diego Dominguez.
England head coach Eddie Jones publicly warned Ford against such a deal last week, reaffirming his unwavering support for the Rugby Football Union's (RFU) strict rule on only selecting home-based players for international duty except in exceptional circumstances.
"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 said at a training camp in Portugal, where his side were continuing their preparations for the forthcoming autumn Test series. "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."
The RFU have not deviated from that policy since it was first announced by former chief executive John Steele six years ago and enforced after the 2011 World Cup, with back-row Steffon Armitage and full-back Nick Abendanon both overlooked by Stuart Lancaster for last year's tournament on home soil as a result. Ford, though, claims he has met with Jones to reassure him that there is no validity behind those links with Toulon.
"I don't know what was going on there last week to be honest," he told The Daily Telegraph. "It was news to me anyway. I've never met [Toulon owner] Mourad [Boudjellal]. Obviously my dad's there but I want to play for England so I want to play in England. After it all came out I had a quick chat with Eddie and said: 'I don't know where all that's come from'. It escalated a little bit but none of it is true and I just want to crack on basically."
The 23-year-old appeared open to the prospect of moving to France later in his career, however, adding: "I think it would be a great life experience playing somewhere like France. It is a different way of playing and living – you'd probably see the sun and the beach a lot more. I suppose it's something quite a lot of the lads have done and probably will do. I'll see where I am in a few years' time."
Ford is expected to retain his starting berth for England on Saturday (12 November) as Jones' side kick-off their autumn campaign against South Africa at Twickenham. That match is followed by further home Tests against Fiji, Argentina and Australia, the latter of whom will be seeking revenge for that historic summer whitewash suffered on home soil.