England’s aim of supplanting New Zealand as world champions in 2019 has moved a step closer after a new agreement was finalised between the Aviva Premiership clubs and Twickenham.
The Rugby Football Union believes the eight-year deal, which is worth in excess of £200m (€239m), has offered head coach Eddie Jones the best possible chance of masterminding success at the next World Cup.
The ‘Professional Game Agreement’ finalised with Premiership Rugby Limited will see the size of the England Elite Player Squad increase from 33 to 45 with up to 36 players able to be selected for training camps.
Jones can now name his EPS squad in the first week of October when previously the deadline was late August before the Premiership season had even begun.
Furthermore, two additional training camps will be staged, in early October ahead of the autumn internationals and in the first week of January as part of the build-up to the RBS 6 Nations.
Jones’ views on what form elements of the ground-breaking agreement should take helped shape negotiations.
“Eddie was heavily involved in all the situations around the deal and is very supportive of it,” RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said.
“We feel we’ve got the balance right and Eddie is very happy with the access it gives him to players.
“This is a true partnership focused on making English rugby the best in the world for club and country.”
Negotiations began two years ago and were interrupted by the stand-off over the structure of European club competition and last autumn’s World Cup, when Ritchie was forced to deal with the fallout of England’s group exit.
Ritchie’s key act was to appoint Jones as Stuart Lancaster’s replacement and that decision has been rewarded with a Grand Slam and last month’s 3-0 series whitewash of Australia.
England are ranked second in the world behind the All Blacks and Jones has repeatedly stated his ambition of transforming them into the global game’s dominant force.
“Eddie has come to meet with our board on a couple of occasions to explain his view of the English game and where he was hoping to take it,” PRL chief executive Mark McCafferty said.
“One of the things he explained very clearly having worked all over the world was that we have the best set-up in the world in terms of facilities, back-up and support.
Meanwhile, Rugby World Cup winner Steve Hansen has extended his contract as coach of New Zealand until 2019.
The 57-year-old has been part of the coaching staff with the All Blacks since 2004, taking over as head coach in 2012 after Graham Henry’s retirement.
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew called Hansen’s record with the All Blacks “remarkable and unparalleled in international rugby”.
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