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I do love Lyon says Carl Fearns, but I still fancy tilt at England

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Carl FearnsIn-demand No.8 Carl Fearns admits he will be torn between staying in France or returning to the Premiership when his contract with Lyon expires next summer.

Former Sale and Bath back rower Fearns, 27, harbours strong England ambitions and is being courted by Premiership clubs, including ten-times champions Leicester.

However, the Liverpool-born enforcer has settled in France far better than he expected and is tempted to extend his stay with the upwardly mobile Top 14 outfit.

Fearns, voted Lyon’s player-of-the-year after last season’s Pro D2 promotion campaign, told The Rugby Paper: “I’ve come over here and really loved it, but I’ve got to decide whether I’ll be happy in my career not trying to crack it with England again.

“It’s a really difficult decision because there are probably a lot more positives to staying in France. I’m really enjoying my rugby here but it’s just that niggling thing in my head around do I want to come back to England and give it a shot?

“With the new England set-up I believe if people are playing well and they’re in form, they’ll give lads opportunities. If I go back to England and play as well as I know I can, I’d probably be knocking on the door, just as I have before.”

Fearns has no plans to discuss his quandary with England’s coaches, adding: “I haven’t spoken to any of them, nor would I expect to because there can be no guarantees.

“They can’t say, ‘you’re going to play for England’ because that just doesn’t happen. The main reason for me to come back would be to have confidence in knowing that they’ll pick people who play well, so the ball’s in my court.

“I know my agent has been speaking to a few English clubs but I haven’t made a decision. If I stay in France it will only be for Lyon because I don’t want to play for another French team and everything is in place for this club to go big.”

While the conditioning of French teams is often criticised, Fearns has benefitted from being a lighter specimen at Lyon, where he tips the scales at 120kgs (18st 9lbs) compared with the 128kgs (20st 1lb) he carried at Bath.

Fearns explained: “I’m the lightest I’ve ever been and I’m getting around the field a lot better.

“I like to play but I wasn’t getting enough game time at Bath. I was playing 15-20 minutes off the bench so maybe that was affecting my weight, but I’m playing some of the best rugby of my career now and feel really confident.

“It’s been a good start for Lyon and two wins and two draws from our first seven games was a decent return; we beat a fully-loaded Toulouse and should have turned draws against Brive and Bayonne into wins as well.

“We’ve got confidence we can stay up and push into mid-table and it’s an exciting opportunity for our whole squad. Lyon have been a yo-yo team but if we can keep them in the Top 14 this time it will be a massive achievement.”

Of his emotional attachment to Lyon, Fearns added: “When I was player-of-the-year last season they got me a Liverpool No.8 top with ‘Fearns’ on the back, which was really nice, and they’ve made me a massive part of what they do.

“My French is not very good but I feel like a leader on the pitch, and off it Lyon’s a great place to live. It’s been great for my kids, so, with our new stadium opening in January, there’s a lot to consider over the next few months.”

NEALE HARVEY

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