The Rugby Football Union has been given a timely lift amid the bleak financial outlook at Twickenham after principal shirt sponsors O2 signed a new five-year deal. The agreement, starting in September 2021 and thought to be worth £7.5million per year, will extend the length of their partnership to three decades.

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The news comes a month after the RFU called for a Government bailout as it seeks to mitigate against huge losses resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

With all of the autumn’s matches and the entire Six Nations set to be played behind closed doors, the English game’s governing body has forecasted a £138m reduction in revenue and losses of £60m.

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In addition, the community game is starting at a £86m collapse in revenue this season. The RFU has made 140 redundancies in an attempt to ease the financial crisis.

For the first time, the mobile network operator has pledged to equally fund the men’s and women’s game for the duration of the arrangement.

“O2’s commitment to equally support both our elite teams is commendable,” RFU chief executive Billy Sweeney said.

“It’s great to collaborate with a partner that truly shares our same passion to see the women’s game flourish and continue to grow for future generations to enjoy.”

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