Dave Ribbans expects the end of the Rugby World Cup to put a pause on his Test career with England.
The powerful lock will complete his move from Northampton to Toulon after the World Cup in France, at which point he will be off-limits for England selection.
Unless a late change is brokered between the RFU and Premiership clubs, then England will stick to the system of only selecting overseas-based players in exceptional circumstances.
Ribbans does not see his situation falling into that category, given he has opted to make the Toulon switch, so the 28-year-old is determined to relish every moment ahead of him at the World Cup.
The South Africa-born second row will be pushing to make his World Cup debut in Saturday’s Pool D clash against Chile in Lille, and Ribbans admitted nothing would give him more pride.
“I think obviously when I signed for Toulon the rules were in place, and the rules remain in place,” said Ribbans. “It was a decision I had to make, and unfortunately, England was no longer available.
“I’m really looking forward to that challenge but for now I’m fully focused on England and being part of this World Cup, and seeing how far we can go as a team. But unfortunately, yes, this will be the end of the road for now.”
Asked if he believes the rules could yet change in the next few months, Ribbans continued: “That’s up to the RFU, there would have to be some conversations had, but for now the rules are the way they are.”
England’s policy of not selecting overseas-based players dates back to the mid-2000s financial potency of the French clubs.
Access to players based abroad for Test preparations can be limited, and the RFU and Premiership Rugby want as many top stars as possible on home soil to boost the domestic game.
The collapse of Wasps forced Jack Willis to find a new club mid-season in October, and the back-row forward has since helped Toulouse claim the French Top 14 league title.
Wing Henry Arundell also had to find a new club in June when London Irish folded, and will join Racing 92 after the World Cup, while centre Joe Marchant is off to Stade Francais.
England boss Steve Borthwick has been clear from the start of his tenure that he wants to be able to select all his best players no matter their club situation.
While that puts pressure on the RFU for after the World Cup, his stance has simplified plans for the tournament itself.
“With my move away from England I wasn’t sure about the World Cup, but I had some good chats with Steve and he assured me that if I had a good pre-season that I’d be up for selection; I’m enjoying every moment of it,” said Ribbans.
“Steve gave everyone loads of confidence and said as long as you’re training well and playing well in the games, you’ll get selected. He reassured everyone.
“It’s been an amazing honour and privilege to be here. I don’t think I’d ever have expected this a couple of years ago.
“To come out of a small town, Somerset West in South Africa, to be playing for England has been amazing. My journey to the World Cup has been full of ups and downs but it’s exciting to be here.
“Ever since I arrived at Northampton they made me feel so at home. I wanted to make England my home and I had some good chats with Eddie over the years and then with Steve coming in it’s been brilliant.
“To be part of this England set-up is really special and I’ve loved every moment of it.”