RFU: England's bid was never about money

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 17:56
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NEWS: England's ultimately unsuccessful bid to stage a match against world champions New Zealand later this year was sparked by coach Eddie Jones not money, the RFU said on Friday.

World number one ranked New Zealand and nearest pursuers England are not scheduled to meet again until 2018.

However, this month it emerged that England's governing Rugby Football Union had held talks with their New Zealand counterparts about the possibility of squeezing in an additional Test at Twickenham on November 4.

But rather than playing England, the All Blacks have decided to face the Barbarians at Twickenham on November 4 - a date when the invitational club had long thought they would be playing at 'headquarters' as part of their 125th anniversary celebrations.

Six Nations champions England equalled New Zealand's record of 18 successive Test victories by a Tier one or leading rugby union nation with a victory over Scotland at Twickenham earlier this month.

But their attempts to break New Zealand's record and complete back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams foundered with a 13-9 loss to Ireland in Dublin last Saturday.

It was the Irish too who ended New Zealand's record run with a 40-29 win in Chicago in November.

England last played New Zealand in 2014, when the All Blacks won 24-21 at Twickenham.

Confirmation of the Barbarians-All Blacks clash means, as things stand, that England and New Zealand will meet just the once before the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

When it emerged the RFU were thinking of staging a match against New Zealand this year, the world's wealthiest national union were accused of being interested only in making money.

They also faced criticism for ignoring player welfare in a year where several England internationals are set to be involved in the British and Irish Lions' Test series in New Zealand.

But RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie insisted sporting reasons alone lay behind his approach to New Zealand Rugby Union opposite number Steve Tew.

"I felt there was an opportunity to have a discussion with Steve Tew over whether or not we can play the All Blacks," Ritchie told a Twickenham news conference on Friday.

"I'd have been failing in my responsibility if I hadn't explored the possibility of an All Blacks game bearing in mind we haven't played them since 2014 and bearing in a mind it's the game that everyone wanted to see.

"I had discussions at the behest of Eddie, not because of any economics.

"It came up in conversation - I asked Eddie if he wanted to play this game if there was a possibility of doing it... Eddie said 'yes, absolutely', "

Ritchie added: "This was never about us trying to make x millions of pounds. If Eddie didn't want the game I wouldn't ever have tried it,"

The Ireland defeat was England's first under Australian coach Jones who was appointed by the RFU after England became the first host nation in World Cup history to fail to get out of the group stage at the 2015 edition.

Agence France-Presse