England to face All Blacks first in revised autumn schedule

ENGLAND have revised their 2010 autumn international schedule and will now begin their four-match series against New Zealand on 6 November.

The fixture for the Hillary Shield had originally been fixed for 4 December but was moved following a request from the All Blacks.

England will then play Australia, Samoa and world champions South Africa in a packed autumn schedule.

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Premier Rugby and the Professional Game Board rubber stamped the change after agreeing to move the England players' release period forward by a week.

As a result of the fixture reshuffle, South Africa's game against the Barbarians will now be played on 4 December at Twickenham, a day earlier than previously scheduled.

Although the original request came from the All Blacks, the new schedule of five Saturday matches, all with 2.30pm kick-offs, is ideal for the Rugby Football Union.

RFU business operations director Paul Vaughan said: "We're delighted that Premier Rugby Limited and the Professional Game Board have approved the change which completes a superb series of games at Twickenham Stadium this autumn.

"Five consecutive Saturday games all kicking off at 2.30pm will be good for our supporters, our broadcast partners and the game as a whole."

Meanwhile, the RFU says discussions are "ongoing" regarding the pay structure for this summer's England tour to Australia and New Zealand.

A report yesterday claimed a pay dispute is threatening to undermine the five-match trip in June, which includes two Test matches against Australia. It has been suggested players who feature in the match-day 22 for Tests in Perth and Sydney will receive a proposed 5,000 match fee, and possible 1,500 win bonus, on top of a reported basic tour fee of 7,800.

Those among a 44-man squad who play in the midweek games only – against the Australian Barbarians (twice) and New Zealand Maori – would not receive anything above a flat tour fee, according to the report.

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It is reported that the Rugby Players' Association (RPA) believes all players on the tour, which starts against the Australian Barbarians in Perth on 8 June, should receive the same amount of money.

"We have a clear pay structure laid out in our player agreement which runs through to 2011 and we are discussing with RPA how that applies to the summer tour," an RFU spokesperson said.

"Those discussions are ongoing and there is a further meeting planned after Easter to finalise the details.

"It would not be appropriate to comment further on this private and confidential issue."

ENGLAND'S REVISED AUTUMN SCHEDULE: 6 Nov: England v New Zealand (2.30pm); 13 Nov: England v Australia (2.30pm); 20 Nov: England v Samoa (2.30pm); 27 Nov: England v South Africa (2.30pm).