RFU targeting central contracts

Last updated at 08:47 16 September 2005

The Rugby Football Union want to bring England's elite players under central contracts to help head coach Andy Robinson develop a team capable of retaining the World Cup in 2007.

The RFU have watched on enviously at the way central contracts helped England win the Ashes with Duncan Fletcher taking sole charge of when his England cricketers are available to play for their counties, which reduces the threat of burn-out.

RFU performance director Chris Spice said: "Central contracts are top of our wish list. Anything where a coach can exercise that amount of discretion there is obviously a plus for the national team, whatever sport it is."

But central contracts would be fought by club chairmen. At the very least the RFU want a solid agreement to block off periods in the autumn and over the Six Nations whereby England takes priority.

"What we have got to do is manage the players," said Spice.

"It doesn't matter who holds the contract at the end of the day, but there needs to be clear times when we know who has priority. If we can get that it will be a major step forward and a lot of the conflict will fall away."

The system of England players flying into a camp for 16 training days a season has been scrapped as unworkable, suiting nobody.

The proposal now, as part of the World Cup planning and a new Long Form Agreement, is for the England players to be available for a two-week camp ahead of the November internationals.

That has been agreed for next season - though the Heineken Cup schedule makes it impossible this year, so England will hold a one-week camp in October.

Still in discussion is the RFU's proposal that the core England 22 are also stood down from club duty for a full eight-week period around the Six Nations. The RFU hope that would give Robinson more than 16 days with his players while reducing conflict with the clubs.

Sorry we are not currently accepting comments on this article.