Jones backs England-All Blacks autumn Test – report

England are exploring the scope for staging a mouth-watering showdown with New Zealand this autumn after receiving backing for the proposal from Eddie Jones.

The All Blacks have been approached at a preliminary stage over the possibility of facing the Six Nations champions on Nov. 4, the date allocated for their fixture against the Barbarians.

In a quirk of the international schedule, the game’s top two teams are not due to meet until late next year, but the Press Association has reported that, with the support of Jones, the All Blacks have been sounded out over an additional meeting.

“We are definitely playing New Zealand in 2018,” read a statement issued by the Rugby Football Union.

“If there now might be an opportunity to play them this year we want to pursue it, but there are many parts to this and many considerations to be discussed.”

Among the hoops to jump through is the size of New Zealand’s fee, given the Test would fall outside the international window. Whatever the final cost — possibly as high as £3 million — it is certain to be the largest ever agreed for such a fixture.

Further obstacles are presented by the need to negotiate with Premiership clubs for player release; concerns over player welfare will also likely accompany any decision to add the All Blacks to an autumn fixture list that already includes Australia, Argentina and Samoa.

“We haven’t been asked for our support. We will need to understand the details of the proposal before responding,” read a statement issued by Premiership Rugby.

Jones said after last summer’s tour to Australia that he wanted to rest players who participated in the looming British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand for the entire 2017 autumn series, but the lure of facing the All Blacks appears to have altered his thinking.

Jones has the opportunity to outline his thoughts when he faces the media at Thursday’s team announcement press conference, before the climax to the Six Nations against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

England and New Zealand have not met since 2014, when they played four times, but the clamour for the dominant forces in the northern and southern hemispheres to clash is growing.

Expectation over the encounter has grown since the Wallabies were whitewashed in June and has accelerated further after an unbeaten autumn and the successful defence of the Six Nations, sealed by last Saturday’s 61-21 victory over Scotland.

If England topple Ireland in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day, they will have become the sixth team to secure back-to-back Grand Slams and will eclipse the All Blacks’ record of 18 consecutive Test victories.

Adding spice to the meeting is the first verbal exchange between the rival head coaches, which started on Sunday when Steve Hansen congratulated Jones and his players for their Six Nations success.

Jones replied by expressing his wariness of Hansen’s approval, noting that compliments from an All Blacks coach are akin to fairy-tale predator the Big Bad Wolf stalking Little Red Riding Hood.

Opposition to the game would likely be dismissed by fans desperate to see Jones’ men face the double World Cup winners, but the timing of the proposal is unfortunate as a defeat by Ireland could leave England open to accusations of hubris.

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Jones backs England-All Blacks autumn Test – report – RUGBY

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