England versus All Blacks in 2017?

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 14:15

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: England could play New Zealand a year earlier than scheduled if they can get an agreement.

There is a suggestion that the back-to-back Six Nations champions could face the world champions at Twickenham on November 4, the Daily Mail reported Wednesday.

A quirk of the international fixture schedule means that New Zealand and England - the top two teams in the world rankings - are not currently due to meet again until 2018.

But the prospect of New Zealand playing England before then has been given added spice by the knowledge that a victory for already-crowned Six Nations champions England against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday would see them surpass the All Blacks' record of 18 successive Test wins.

However, England have not faced New Zealand during their winning run, with their last match against the All Blacks a 21-24 loss at Twickenham in 2014.

New Zealand are due to play the Barbarians at Twickenham on November 4 in a match marking the invitational club's 125th anniversary.

But according to the Mail, Ian Ritchie - the Chief Executive of England's governing Rugby Football Union - is lobbying to get the All Blacks to face England on that date instead.

The Mail added that the major sticking point was over how the money generated from a likely 82,000 sell-out crowd would be divided, with the New Zealand Rugby Union - well aware of the All Blacks' worth - reportedly seeking a 50 percent share of the gate receipts, a figure equating  to £3-million (US$3.6-million, €3.4-million) from the RFU, the world's wealthiest union.

An RFU spokesman told Britain's Press Association on Wednesday: "We are scheduled to play New Zealand in 2018 and if an opportunity came up to play them before then we would pursue it."

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen congratulated England on equalling the All Blacks' record following their 61-21 thrashing of Scotland at Twickenham last weekend, saying the team were now producing rugby worthy of their talent under Eddie Jones.

But a suspicious Jones, praised by Hansen for giving the England team a "want and desire that probably hasn't been there before," responded by saying: "It's a bit like Red Riding Hood and the wolf when the wolf comes dressed up as the grandmother.

"You always have to be careful when All Black coaches compliment you, you always have to be careful," the Australian added.

England are already due to face Argentina, Australia and Samoa at Twickenham in November.

A match on November 4 falls outside World Rugby's designated end-of-year Test window.

By adding this fixture to the schedule, just four months after the British and Irish Lions tour New Zealand, both English and New Zealand officials could open themselves up to accusations they are more interested in making money than player welfare.

Agence France-Presse