All Blacks v England: Big cash carrot for grudge match

By NZherald

England's cash-rich national rugby union is poised to offer the All Blacks a huge cash carrot to agree to a grudge match at Twickenham in London in November.

And the sweetener, which could be anywhere between $7 million and $10m, may be enough to tempt New Zealand rugby bosses to agree to the showdown with Eddie Jones and his rampant Englishmen despite previous misgivings.

The All Blacks are due to play Scotland, France and Wales on their traditional end-of-season northern hemisphere tour with a fourth match still to be agreed against undetermined rivals.

New Zealand Rugby has been negotiating with England's RFU, the owners of Twickenham, to rent the 80,000-seat stadium for a match against an invitational Barbarians team.
The match sits outside World Rugby's official international calendar, which allows NZR to bank revenue it normally would not get.

The All Blacks have played Ireland in Chicago and matches in Europe against the likes of Italy and others to earn additional cash for NZR.

English media have reported that NZR was expecting to pocket about $4.4m from a Barbarians game. But with England, rejuvenated under former Wallaby coach Jones, securing back-to-back Six Nations titles last weekend and equalling the All Blacks' record of 18 successive test victories, the call for a showdown with No 1 ranked New Zealand has reached fever pitch.

The Daily Mail reported yesterday that the RFU had launched a dramatic bid to engineer a fixture between the world's top two rugby sides at Twickenham on November 4.

Jones' team will surpass the All Blacks' record if they beat Ireland on Sunday morning but are not officially scheduled to take on Steve Hansen's world champions until November next year.

However, the Daily Mail has reported that RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie is pursuing the possibility of arranging the game that Hansen admitted people are "desperate" to see.

The All Blacks have won their past five meetings with England. But their last loss to the men in white came in 2012 when they agreed to play England on their last match of the northern tour that year in exchange for a fee.

The experience of banking good money but losing the game did not sit well with the All Blacks coaching staff of the time who felt the match was a bridge too far for an exhausted squad at the end of a long season.

Avoiding a repeat scenario - and offering England a psychological edge ahead of 2018 and the 2019 Rugby World Cup - was not worth the risk of taking them on this year given the high demands players will face from the touring British and Irish Lions and the annual Rugby Championship involving South Africa, Australia and Argentina.

But emboldened by England's epic run of success, Ritchie now wants a match outside the official autumn window this year. The Daily Mail said he reiterated that desire in a meeting with NZ Rugby in London this month.

The Mail reported that the RFU had given approval for an All Blacks-Barbarians match to take place and agreed a fee of £500,000 ($880,309) for the stadium hire.

NZR was to be paid in the region of £2m for putting the All Blacks up.

The newspaper said final confirmation of that game has been delayed due to the RFU's desire to engineer an England versus New Zealand clash instead.

The proposed offer gives NZR, who have consistently complained they should gain a 50-50 cut of away games because of the back-to-back world champions' status in the game, a golden chance to leverage their wealthy counterparts and gain an even split which would reap them substantially more income than a Baa Baas match.

A full house at Twickenham brings in about £3m in gate receipts alone.

Then there is worldwide broadcasting revenue and sponsorship from a match that would stop the rugby world. That could result in NZR banking anywhere between $5m and $10m, making the prospect too good to turn down.

NZR could also mitigate the risk of the All Blacks being leg-weary by ensuring the match is played the first weekend of the northern tour, which is when the Barbarians fixture has been penned in for anyway.

New Zealand Rugby would not comment last night.

England and New Zealand played six tests against each other between the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, whereas they are scheduled to meet only once in the current four-year cycle.

Asked about the prospect of coming up against England this year, Hansen told the BBC this week that he recognised the fan interest and even hinted the RFU should make it worth New Zealand's while.

"People are desperate for England and the All Blacks to play," he said. "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?"

England's last 5 vs NZ

• Nov 2014 - Lost 21-24 (H)

• June 2014 - Lost 36-13 (A)

• June 2014 - Lost 28-27 (A)

• June 2014 - Lost 20-15 (A)

• Nov 2013 - Lost 30-22 (H)

- Staff reporter

- NZ Herald

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