French exile Carl Fearns has shone a disturbing light on the battle hundreds of out-of-contract players are facing as clubs across Europe tighten their belts.
With Lyon slow to offer Fearns a suitable new deal despite the part he has played in their rise from Pro D2 to the cusp of winning a Top 14 title, the former England No.8 had been hoping to take his young family home with a Premiership contract safely secured.
However, the global health crisis threatens to scupper his chances, with Fearns telling The Rugby Paper: “A lot of things have gone on which are out of my hands but the most frustrating thing now is that the market is collapsing and it’s an awkward position to be in.
“First there was the salary cap business in England which was making clubs a bit wary anyway and now there’s the coronavirus, so everything’s up in the air and clubs are not talking about contracts or new signings while they’re knocking 25 per cent off current players.
“I was hearing from my agent that clubs were interested, but now it’s all gone quiet and it looks like I’m going to head home without a job. My rent’s up on my house here in June and I don’t even know if I’ll be able to travel by then, so it’s quite a stressful time.”
When the current situation eventually clears, the destructive Liverpudlian feels he still has plenty to offer.
Fearns, 30, said: “I’d hope to still be in demand. I’ve got enough experience in my career to be an attractive signing and if I had to hang my boots up now, I’d be gutted because I feel I’ve still got a good two or three years left in me at the highest level.
“It would hit me hard to finish now but hopefully it won’t come to that. I’ve played a lot of games in the Top 14 and Champions Cup this season and I’m fully fit and feeling good, so I’ve been getting through a lot of work and have a lot more to give yet.”
After overcoming an ACL injury that wrecked his 2017/18 campaign, Fearns has been a big part of Lyon’s success. He added: “From where we were in Pro D2 to now being second in the Top 14, I’ve done everything I can to try and put Lyon in a better place.
“It would have been great to finish my time here with a Top 14 title but whatever happens I’ll still be happy with what I’ve done.
“I’ve enjoyed my time and it re-energised my career after leaving Bath in 2015, so I’ll leave France with no bitterness.”
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