England could face New Zealand this year after all - if the RFU succeed with a dramatic bid to engineer a fixture between the world's top two at Twickenham on November 4.
Eddie Jones's team will surpass the All Blacks' world record of 18 successive Test victories if they beat Ireland on Saturday but they are not scheduled to take on Steve Hansen's world champions until November 2018.
However, the Daily Mail understands RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie is pursuing the possibility of arranging the game that Hansen admitted people are 'desperate' to see.
Plans for New Zealand to play the Barbarians at Twickenham on November 4 are not finalised, so that could be the date for a thrilling showdown.
Jones has overseen a spectacular revival of the national team's fortunes and his side now have all the major scalps, bar one. The All Blacks.
It appeared that politics and financial wrangling would prevent the nations from locking horns until November next year, but Sportsmail has learned that moves are afoot to change that.
Emboldened by England's epic run of success, Ritchie is seeking to set up a match outside the official autumn window this year. It is understood that at a meeting in London earlier this month, Ritchie reiterated his desire to pursue this bold objective.
Sportsmail has learned that the RFU have given approval for the Barbarians match to take place to celebrate their 125th anniversary and agreed a fee of £500,000 ($878,000) for the stadium hire - with the All Blacks due to be paid in the region of £2million ($3.5m) for participating in the showpiece.
However, final confirmation of that game between the world champions and the famous invitational team has been delayed, apparently due to Ritchie's desire to engineer an England versus New Zealand clash instead.
The trouble is that there have been fraught negotiations between the home union and their Kiwi counterparts, the NZRU, who recognise the value of the All Blacks and have been demanding a 50-50 cut of Twickenham gate receipts; a figure of around £3million ($5.3m).
So, it may still depend on whether the world's richest rugby nation are willing to pay that sort of sum to deliver the Test the English public crave, in addition to games against Australia, Argentina and Samoa, which have already been announced.
It is a match that Jones would welcome as he seeks to build towards the World Cup, but there will need to be compromise on both sides for it to go ahead.
The NZRU remain cautious about the possibility of the showdown. Asked by Sportsmail about plans for the All Blacks to face England, their chief executive Steve Tew said: 'We're playing England next year. We look forward to it.' When pressed on whether the next encounter could happen this year, he added: 'Not as our season is currently programmed, no. It's highly unlikely at this stage.
'We've got a very important series against the British and Irish Lions and that's a primary focus for us. We're still working on finalising our programme. We've already got Scotland, France and Wales on the end-of-year tour.'
England and New Zealand played six Tests against each other between the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, whereas they are only scheduled to meet once in the current four-year cycle.
Tew added: 'There's been a gap between the All Blacks playing England but for a period of time we had five Tests in three years. It's part of the cycle we agreed to way back in 2011.'
Steve Hansen, head coach of the world champions, was asked on Tuesday about the prospect of coming up against Jones side. He said: 'People are desperate for England and the All Blacks to play. It will happen and hopefully it will live up to the hype when it does. You want excitement around the games and you can only have that if teams are performing well.
'We're not scared to play them. If we are to play them, I guess they are going to have to find a way to do that and give us half the stadium (revenue) or something. That would be good, wouldn't it?'