England players agree new deal with RFU
England players will receive £15,000 a Test this year as part of a bumper new pay deal they have struck with the Rugby Football Union, Press Association Sport understands.
The four-year agreement does not contain any individual win bonuses, to reflect the "egalitarian" culture set by head coach Stuart Lancaster. Instead, the £15,000 lump sum paid to players in each 23-man matchday squad will comprise a £7,000 match fee, a £7,000 image-rights payment and a new £1,000 training fee.
The deal, negotiated by the Rugby Players' Association, represents a significant increase on the previous payments, which were a match fee of around £9,200 and a win bonus of approximately £3,000.
There will be a fee for those who are selected for the summer tour of Argentina and additional pro-rata team bonuses that will be triggered based on England's performance.
"The new contract duly recognises the efforts made by all 33 of the senior EPS (elite player squad) as well as the increasing overall value of the players to the RFU and their partners," RPA chief executive Damian Hopley said.
"We look forward to working collaboratively with the England squad and the RFU to deliver these rights, and I would like to thank the England players committee for their invaluable and professional input throughout these good natured negotiations."
The RFU have also built in a special provision to cover the 2015 Rugby World Cup to ensure there is no repeat of the pay revolt that preceded the last tournament. The England squad disputed their pay levels in the build-up to the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and that row led to some players threatening to boycott the official send-off dinner.
When Lewis Moody led the negotiations with the RFU in 2011 there was a feeling among the England squad that it was a case of 'us versus them'. "There was a divide between the RFU and the England team. The two were apart from each other," Moody told Press Association Sport.
RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie, who took over at Twickenham after the World Cup, spoke to Moody during the current process and he was determined to ensure England's players felt fully backed by the union.
"I have no doubt about the importance of the relationship the RFU as a whole have with the players," Ritchie said. "That is the most significant part for me. One of my major purposes is to support them. We have to recognise the value of the players. It is a good deal for both sides."