Sun, Nov 04, 2007 - Page 23 News List

English clubs sign deal with RFU


England's Premiership clubs have signed an agreement with the Rugby Football Union that should end the dispute about the release of players for international matches.

Under the eight-year agreement, RFU elite director of rugby Rob Andrew and the England coach will select a 32-man national team squad each season. The RFU will have total control over the roster, compensating clubs with an average year's salary for each elite player.

The agreement also states certain time periods when the 32 players must be rested from club matches to ensure England's players are fully fit before internationals.

"What we will be doing in the new eight-year deal, which we have actually signed now, is to break the season up," RFU chairman Martyn Thomas said on Friday.

Tours will also be arranged to avoid clashes with the European Cup final.

"We're moving the tours so we can guarantee we take the best players," Thomas said.

The RFU will pay a bonus to clubs for fielding England-qualified players -- even if they're not in the 32-man squad -- to address concerns about the number of foreign players in the Premiership.

"In 1998, 64 percent of squads were English and that is pretty much the figure now," Premier Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty said. "The RFU would like it to rise to 70-75 percent, and the clubs are not against that."

The two parties agreed a similar deal in 2001. That broke down when the RFU forced out the independent chairman of the body as it thought he sided with the clubs too often.

The policing body of the new agreement will be made up differently. There will be four delegates from each side, two from the Professional Rugby Players' Association, one from First Division Rugby and a chairman appointed by the RFU.

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