sport

RFU clinch England player deal

The RFU is confident there will be no pay revolts before the 2015 Rugby World Cup after agreeing a new four-year deal with the England players.

The England squad disputed their pay levels in the build-up to the 2011 World Cup and that row led to some players threatening to boycott the official send-off dinner.

But RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said the starting point for negotiations over a new and improved pay structure was to ensure that situation never happened again.

The new deal struck between the RFU and the Rugby Players' Association runs until 2016 and it contains increased payments for squad selection, match fees, bonuses and commercial arrangements.

There are also special provisions for the World Cup.

Ritchie said: "To get this level of certainty up to and including the World Cup is a good thing.

"The last thing we wanted was to wait years to sort this out and have last minute discussions.

"Clearly the players want to be satisfied there is a reasonable arrangement in place for the Rugby World Cup in 2015.

"There was a determination on both sides that we would do this positively. We have done the finances and now we can purely concentrate on the rugby."

When Lewis Moody led the negotiations with the RFU in 2011, there was a feeling among the England squad that it was a case of "us versus them".

Moody met Ritchie to discuss what went on and he was encouraged by the change in attitude the former Wimbledon tennis chief executive has brought to Twickenham.

"There was a divide between the RFU and the England team. The two were apart from each other," Moody told Press Association Sport.

"Ian is very much into the fact that we are one organisation - the RFU, the players - and that everyone should be pulling for the same objectives.

"It seems to be working incredibly well."

Ritchie wanted to make sure the England squad felt they were fully supported by the union.

He discussed the pay situation with a designated group of senior players, he involved head coach Stuart Lancaster and he negotiated the deal with RPA chief executive Damian Hopley.

"I have no doubt about the importance of the relationship the RFU as a whole have with the players," Ritchie said.

"That is the most significant part for me. It is right they should get a decent, reasonable financial recompense.

"One of my major purposes is to support them. We have to recognise the value of the players. It is a good deal for both sides

"We want to make sure we have whatever resources are necessary to have a successful England team. I don't want somebody to say to me 'we would do a lot better if we had this or that'.

"We are in a position of investing into the England team as a whole, on the pitch and off the pitch.

"The players hopefully recognise that and it has been led by Stuart having a more integrated approach, whether it is to rugby, to community events or within the RFU."

Ritchie described the deal as "egalitarian" in that it recognised the squad nature of Test rugby, but he would not discuss the figures involved.

However, the new deal is an increase on the match fee of 9,224 and win bonus of 3,075 that England players reportedly received for the 2012 RBS 6 Nations.

In 2000, the England squad went on strike over a pay dispute with the RFU and initially refused to play in a Test against Argentina.

Martin Johnson, England's captain and one of the three player negotiators along with Matt Dawson and Lawrence Dallaglio, accused the RFU of being "old-fashioned, patronising and arrogant".

A deal was thrashed out within 24 hours and the England squad returned to training shortly before the deadline imposed by Clive Woodward, who had threatened to select an alternative squad.