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All Blacks grab £3m jackpot at Twickenham

New ZealandThe All Blacks will be turning up at Twickenham next year after all for what promises to be the richest match in their history.

The New Zealand Rugby Union are scheduled to announce tomorrow that they will start their next European tour in London against the Barbarians and cash in as never before. The match could be worth as much as £3m to the double World Cup winners.

The fixture, marking the 125th anniversary of the NZRFU, is a mighty coup for the Baa-baas. The All Blacks turned down inter-continental offers to celebrate their milestone elsewhere, including Chicago for a re-run against Ireland and approved the London option at a board meeting last Wednesday.

The Rugby Paper understands that the Barbarians match   will take place on November 4, an out-of-window date which allows New Zealand to negotiate their own deal. Their hard-nosed stance will not be lost in the mists of nostalgia over the 1973 classic at Cardiff Arms Park when Gareth Edwards applied an acrobatic finish to the try of the century.

The All Blacks have made their price clear – 50 per cent of the gate which at Twickenham next season will gross as much as £7m. Their unprecedented demand caused the collapse of talks with the RFU earlier this year.

Significantly, England will be missing from New Zealand’s touring schedule again next year for the third season in a row. Instead the All Blacks have agreed to play France in Paris on November 11, Scotland at Murrayfield on November 18 and Wales in Cardiff on November 25.

The dates, due to be confirmed this week, fall within the three-week autumn period designated for Test matches, thereby eliminating any appearance fees.

England’s autumn schedule next year is reduced from four games to three, against Argentina, Australia and Samoa.

Twickenham has already been booked next autumn for two sell-out NFL events – the Cleveland Browns against Minnesota Vikings on October 22 followed by the Los Angeles Rams against the Arizona Cardinals seven days later. The hire fees are understood to be £1m.

While the RFU stand to make another £500,000 from the Baa-baas match as their fee for Twickenham, they have rejected New Zealand’s demands as exorbitant. The issue caused ‘a long-running battle’ between RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie and Kiwi counterpart, Steve Tew.

Since retaining the World Cup, the holders have doubled their out-of-window Test fee from £1.5m. “Of course they want more money but there is nothing to stop them building a stadium,’’ Ritchie said. “Go build a stadium if you want to increase your revenue growth.

“We have all been through it, in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and ourselves, incurring debt on stadiums built in order to reap the benefits.’’

PETER JACKSON

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