England will be winners under a new spirit of co-operation

England coach Eddie Jones (centre) alongside RFU Chief Executive Ian Ritchie and RFU Chairman Bill Beaumont (left) at Twickenham.
England coach Eddie Jones (centre) alongside RFU Chief Executive Ian Ritchie and RFU Chairman Bill Beaumont (left) at Twickenham.
Have your say

The new Professional Game Agreement that has been signed between Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby presents a radical shift in the mentality and direction of the game.

Each part of the new deal apepars to be striving towards a singular goal, and that goal is England becoming a dominant force in world rugby.

The agreement, as revealed by Yorkshire’s own RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie earlier this week, looks set to begin a process of streamlining the English game, with the success of the international side being the primary concern.

The further autonomy granted to head coach Eddie Jones is crucial to this. He can now select an extended Elite Player Squad of 45, as opposed to 33, and he now has until October to make his final decision as to who these players will be – allowing him time to see them perform at a club level first.

Additionally, none of the selected players will be released back to the Premiership the week before the Six Nations, giving them time to rest and focus on being part of an England squad.

It is no coincidence that this new deal comes off the back of Jones’ side’s 3-0 whitewashing of Australia, and the Six­ Nations grand­ slam that preceded it.

The logic of providing Jones with everything he needs is simple – but the risk of alienating Premiership clubs complicates matters.

A similar RFU shake-up had been suggested by Sir Clive Woodward, just before he resigned as English head coach in 2004. The Daily Telegraph reported that the World­ Cup­-winning coach had “had enough of compromising over training dates for his elite squad... and having so little hands-­on control over the international players”.

Following his resignation, the relationship between himself, the RFU and the Premiership became frosty.

So how does the RFU avoid stoking­ up old tensions? The simple answer is money, but as the RFU recognises, money alone is not enough.

The Top 14 in France, for example, is immensely wealthy and littered with stars, but the French national team sits a dismal seventh in the world rankings.

The headline­-grabbing £200m deal for English clubs is going to be implemented very carefully.

The set £112m injection for the first four years will be awarded based on each club’s number of English­-qualified players and the amount of players featured in the England EPS, as well as the standard of their academies.

The message is clear: work with us and you will be rewarded.

These stipulations ensure that the money going into the clubs is being fed directly back into the England squad via a strong base of English talent.

It is the same mentality behind the decision to review the controversial play-off system for promotion from the Championship – where Yorkshire Carnegie, Doncaster Knights and Rotherham Titans reside – and possibly reverting to automatic promotion for the champions.

Additional funding of £7m to the Rugby Players Association welfare, development and education programmes, as well as a 10-week rest period for international players bolsters this idea of co-­operation.

Already, it appears to be working. Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has suggested his satisfaction with the deal by saying: “Success for England and the clubs depends on an effective partnership between the RFU and Premiership Rugby on many levels.”

For the first time in many years, English rugby looks to be in a place where all parties at professional level are on the same page, where everything that can be done is being done to ensure England have a better chance of climbing above New Zealand and becoming the world’s No 1 ranked nation.