Jack Willis says he feels “incredibly privileged and grateful” to be involved with England following the “horrific and heartbreaking” death of his beloved Wasp.
Willis is in Eddie Jones’ 36-man squad for the autumn internationals, but the winger is without a club after Wasps were placed into administration.
He was one of them 167 players and staff were fired The team relegated from the first division at the beginning of the month.
“It’s pretty awesome to think they’ve taken all of that away,” Willis, 25, said.
Speaking to BBC Sport from their training camp in Jersey, England, Willis explained the emotions felt by the Wasps squad as they realized the gravity of the situation.
“It was quite a scary atmosphere – it’s hard to describe how it felt,” he explained.
“[The administrators] he started talking about how to ask for severance pay and everyone was completely stunned there.
“You think to yourself, ‘Did I really lose my job?’ and you realize that everyone in that room, from that minute on, no longer had a job at Wasps, and who knows what the future holds for everyone and the club as well?
“It was pretty scary to be honest with you and pretty upsetting.”
“I always thought someone would come in”
Despite the bad signs in the summer, with The Wasps have to pay £2 million As well as repaying the £35million bond, Willis still hoped a resolution could be found to save the club, which had entered its teenage years.
“On the surface I was saying it didn’t look good, but I always thought someone would come in and fix things,” he admitted.
“We went into that Monday not expecting to be told that the administration was official, not expecting that we would all be fired within a minute of the meeting.”
But despite the brutal reality of the situation plaguing his boyhood club, Willis says he has tried not to hold any grudges against those who led the Wasps into oblivion.
“You go through a mix of emotions, but I can’t change anything,” he added.
“That’s the main thing, I can’t change anything, it’s done now. This decision has been made, and now I just want to look back and think how grateful I am.
“The club gave me the opportunity to play alongside my brother [Tom]along with my best friends, and make lifelong friends and memories.
“You can experience a lot of emotions, but for me the main thing now is to think about good memories.”
Focusing on England the club’s future is in doubt
Willis says he is yet to settle his future after November’s internationals – “nothing is set in stone” – and warns of the difficult landscape facing unemployed players in the current climate.
“In a perfect world we would all move somewhere together, stay with my brother and stay with my friends, but that’s not realistic,” he added.
“You hear some numbers thrown at guys, some pay cuts are 75%. You wouldn’t even consider it in any other walk of life. The problem is our dreams are playing rugby.
“You just hope we all get through this season. We’ll see what happens, but it’s going to be very tough for a lot of people.”
Meanwhile, Willis says his focus is now on playing for England and adding to his four caps, with matches against Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa at Twickenham in November.
“I have five weeks to focus on something that is the pinnacle of my career and something I’ve always wanted to be a part of,” he said.
“I don’t have a club to think about, that’s why you have an agent to look after you. My agent is working every day and keeps telling me to focus on the pitch and train well.
“Now I have a great opportunity. Now I have only one focus and that’s England. My family have never seen me play live in an England shirt, so that’s a motivation for me.
“All I can say is that I promise to give everything to be able to get that chance.”