With England due to play their Guinness Six Nations back match versus Italy in Rome on October 31, the Rugby Football Union are arranging a warm-up game for Eddie Jones’ England just 24 hours after the planned October 24 Gallagher Premiership final.

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Amid the financial crisis that will see the RFU shed 139 jobs due to the projected loss of £100million due to the pandemic, they will look to maximise their potential earnings by adding an extra game to the roster.

It has already been revealed that if the capacity at Twickenham is limited to 30,000 all but a small number of tickets will be given to the lucrative hospitality operation that normally helps the RFU generate around £10m per match.

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England and Exeter center Henry Slade guests on The Lockdown, the RugbyPass pandemic interview series

At present, England have not announced their Six Nations warm-up opponents but the Barbarians are one option while the scheduled November Test games with New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Australia remain under threat due to travel restrictions caused by Covid-19. 

As a result, an expanded Six Nations competition is planned – two groups of four – which will include Japan and Fiji who have confirmed they have been approached to join in.

That would reduce the number of planned home games for England who are negotiating a cut in the match fees to their players. It was £25,000 per player but this will be reduced when a new deal is struck.

The idea of a warm-up game on October 25 hasn’t gone down well with everyone in English rugby, however. One club director of rugby told RugbyPass: “Why do you need a warm-up – it’s a game with Italy? We’re not getting any warm-ups before we restart the Premiership games.”

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Martyn Phillips, the Welsh Rugby Union chief executive, has been helping to sort out the calendar and he insists getting all of the international fixtures agreed for the next Test window agreed is down to the English and French unions and their respective clubs. 

He said: “It’s largely down to the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Premiership Rugby Limited (PRL) as well as FFR and LNR in France to iron things out. We’re nearly there. We’re just waiting on those two nations to square things out so it is down to England and France to get us over the line.”

The dates for next season’s Top 14 club games in France will be discussed on Wednesday following Tuesday’s World Rugby executive meeting which is hoping to confirm the international schedule, and the Top 14 clubs (LNR) insist that five Test games – not six as wanted by the FFR – will be arranged.

A leading figure in the discussions told RugbyPass: “We’re dealing with October and November, hammering out release dates, and there is total unity in the club game in Europe. Some of the best minds in the game operate in club rugby and I hope we are at the start of a more inclusive discussion, but first we need to get the internationals sorted for this year.

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“There is this period, then there is next season and also the longer term and they are three very different things. Bilateral discussions are taking place rather than imposing regulations. LNR have been talking to the FFR, and PRL and RFU are doing the same. This year can be sorted.

“This is just the beginning of the process. We all want to keep July as an international window and it is a strongly held view. That has all been parked to get this year sorted and there is a long way still to go. Those discussions have yet to be arranged.”

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