England threaten to veto Barbarians game with All Blacks - report
The plot thickens as the proposed All Blacks v England showdown for world rugby supremacy at Twickenham in November remains very much in the balance.
The UK's Daily Mail reported earlier in the week that England's Rugby Football Union were locked in negotiations with their New Zealand equivalents over a match between Steve Hansen's No 1-ranked All Blacks and Eddie Jones' back-to-back Six Nations champions England on November 4.
New Zealand are said to be demanding half the profit from such a massive match-up, which could fall at around the $5 million mark; England, of course, would like to drive a harder bargain. NZR boss Steve Tew is staying tight-lipped, but given it's a potential fixture being driven by demand in the north he will no doubt dig in for the best deal possible at a time when every dollar helps in the retention of key talent.
As it stands now the two leading sides in the international game are not scheduled to meet next until November of 2018.
But with England on an irresistible roll, having equalled the All Blacks' record of 18 consecutive victories by a tier-one nation, and with the chance to own the mark outright if they can complete a second straight Grand Slam in Ireland on Sunday (NZT), there is a clamour for them to measure themselves against the back-to-back world champions and No 1 side in the world.
However latest Daily Mail revelations have further muddied the waters around the potential "heavyweight champion of the world" match-up.
The English paper is now reporting that the RFU has been condemned for being "deceitful and underhand" over attempting to over-ride a scheduled All Blacks-Barbarians 125th anniversary match-up at Twickenham on the November 4 date with their own clash.
The Mail claimed that RFU chief Ian Ritchie had threatened to veto the All Blacks-Baabaas game on November 4, provoking the angry response from Barbarians insiders.
The paper reported that the RFU's official line was that they only became aware of the proposed Barbarians v All Blacks game a few weeks ago and have simply made tentative enquiries about whether England could participate instead.
But the Mail said the Barbarians insist they had sought permission last November for the game to be played, and had been given approval, including an agreed stadium hire fee of £500,000.
Further twists seem assured in this saga, especially if England complete the Grand Slam in Dublin and demand grows even further for the match-up against the All Blacks.
Tew and Ritchie don't have the best of working relationships and have often been at loggerheads over key issues in the international game such as the global season and revenue sharing.
But they at least appear to have some common ground here. NZ Rugby would dearly love a $5m cash injection; and the RFU can provide it if they are willing to put their money where their mouth is.
Further complicating the game the world wants to see is the stance by English clubs that they will not release players for this fixture because it falls outside of the agreed international window.
Clearly that wheel will have to be greased too, and whether that leaves enough left over for the RFU to line their deep pockets remains the crux of the matter.
- Sunday Star Times