Anthony Watson looks set to become the latest high-profile name to jump ship from Bath at the end of this season after reportedly deciding the 'time is right' to move on.
That's according to the Telegraph, which reported the England and British and Irish Lions winger has chosen to call time on his nine-year career at The Rec despite having no destination in place.
It's a crushing blow for the Somerset club, who have lost each of their 10 Premiership games to far this season and sit 11 points adrift at the base of the standings heading into the New Year.
Bath are already poised to lose another of their Lions, Wales international Taulupe Faletau, when he departs to join Cardiff Rugby at the end of this season.
Watson, 27, played just 88 minutes of Premiership rugby this season following his return from the ill-fated Lions tour of South Africa, only to suffer a serious knee injury during a 71-17 defeat by Saracens in October.
The London club and five-time Premiership champions have been linked with Watson in the past and may raise interest again, although Sarries already boast fine options at wing and full-back.
That being said, numerous Premiership clubs may be willing to restructure in order to accommodate a player of Watson's quality, having established himself as one of Europe's elite back-three talents.
That's despite the notion that most Premiership teams have encountered difficulties meeting the lower £5million salary cap brought in following the economic impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
It's also suggested there will be serious interest from the cash-rich clubs in the Top 14, although a move to France would almost certainly end his hopes of featuring in Eddie Jones ' squad at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Which club do you think would be a dream transfer for Anthony Watson in 2022? Let us know in the comments section.
Watson has started in 47 of his 51 England appearances to date and won four Lions caps across the last two tours to South Africa (2021) and New Zealand (2017).
The Surrey native left boyhood club London Irish for Bath in 2013, but challenges for major honours have been few and far between, venturing into the Premiership play-offs on just two occasions in that time.
Bath head coach Neal Hatley—who will be replaced by incumbent Munster chief Johann van Graan at the end of this season—hesitated to deny the report regarding Watson's impending departure.
“As I understand it he is contracted to the club and that’s where we stand on that,” the former England scrum coach told reporters on Thursday.
“Any news that we have on that will come through the official channels at an appropriate time, as it always does. I’m responsible for the on-pitch and I spoke to Anthony the other day about on-pitch stuff.
“Of all the players I’ve coached, I’ve probably worked with Ant for the longest. I worked with him at London Irish as a 13-year-old, when I was the academy manager, up to when we capped him when he was still at St George’s School and we gave him his debut as a 17-year-old.
"I was fortunate enough to work with him at international level and he followed us here to Bath, so I’ve worked with him at Bath and with England. He’s probably one of the best – if not the best – players I’ve ever coached and he’s (sic) amazing individual.”
News of Watson's urge to leave The Rec looks certain to cause a swell of interest both at home and abroad, while Van Graan's task of rebuilding the squad just got all the more difficult.
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