England rugby may tour Japan in October if July voided

Apr 10, 2020

England is considering going to Japan in October if their two rugby tests in July are put off by the coronavirus pandemic

LONDON (AP) — England is considering going to Japan in October if their two rugby tests in July are put off by the coronavirus pandemic.

Bill Sweeney, the England Rugby Football Union chief executive, told BBC Radio 4 on Friday it was an option as they try to deal with the fallout from rugby's shutdown during the outbreak.

If the pandemic also threatens England's series of home tests in November, when the southern hemisphere sides come north, Sweeney suggested an option to make up for the financial hit was a bonus Six Nations in October and November, though the Six Nations still have four matches postponed last month for which to find new dates.

“We’re looking at a range of different contingencies,” Sweeney said. “We might go there (Japan) in October. It’s all discussion and nothing’s fully nailed down. But one option is we would go down there, because obviously they’d rather host, they make more money when they host, and we’d come back and play our autumn internationals.

“If we weren’t able to travel to each other ... we’d want to do something to fill our gap.”

That gap-filler, he said, could be “a Six Nations in the autumn but link it into the Six Nations the next year, and you have a home and away series.”

Sweeney last month said the RFU — the world’s richest national rugby union — could lose up to 50 million pounds ($62 million) over the next 18 months because of the pandemic.

England coach Eddie Jones along with Sweeney and the RFU’s other highest-paid executives have taken pay cuts of more than 25%.

Asked on Friday whether England players might agree to a reduction in their match fees, Sweeney said that conversation had begun.

“We started that before the crisis hit because that contract is up in the middle of this year," he said. "We haven’t reached any conclusions yet. But that would obviously be a discussion we’d need to have.”

Wales’ leading players agreed to a 25% pay cut this week for three months, but Sweeney declined to speculate what the England players might do.

“They’re a very reasonable bunch of people,” he said. “We will sit down with them and we’d lay out the situation, we’d look at the financial position, and we’d have a discussion around what we feel is a reasonable figure.”

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