MX23RW : Wednesday, July 28 11:45:34| >> :600:409556:409556:

RFU chief Bill Sweeney admits rugby landscape could be dramatically altered

England have extended the contract of head coach Eddie Jones until the end of the 2023 World Cup.

The shape of international rugby union could be dramatically altered by the coronavirus crisis, with RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney expecting the sport to emerge with "a blank sheet of paper".

England have extended the contract of head coach Eddie Jones until the end of the 2023 World Cup, a two-year increase on his existing deal, but on almost every other issue there is a profound uncertainty.

The finances of grassroots, professional and even international teams are likely to be stretched to breaking point by the lengthy pause caused by the pandemic and Sweeney admitted the situation might be showing up some harsh realities about the basic infrastructure of the game at large.

And when things return to a form of normality, there is a chance of considerable changes to the status quo.

Bill Sweeney is leading the RFU's response to the current lay-off.
Bill Sweeney is leading the RFU's response to the current lay-off (Nick Ansell/PA)

"What's come out of this is an agreement between all the unions – north and south (hemisphere) and World Rugby to really start with a blank sheet of paper," said Sweeney.

"When you have a crisis of this nature and scale – and I don't think anybody could have predicted anything of this magnitude – it does highlight where you have fault lines and it does highlight where you can have some weaknesses. Some of those are being exposed now.

"A lot of conversations now are around 'how do we come out of this and emerge stronger?'. We don't want to just come back in and carry on with the same model, that just repeats the errors and the difficulties of the past, so there's a lot of really positive, productive conversations about how do we come out of this with rugby union in a better place, both domestically and also internationally.

"There's a whole list of things that we need to be looking at and working more closely together so that we can all realise the benefit. Those conversations have already kicked off and they kicked off fairly quickly."

The exact details of those talks remain unknown, possibly to be determined by the length of the hiatus and its eventual impact.

A more immediate issue surrounds England's next planned assignment, a Test tour of Japan in July. With the Tokyo Olympics already pushed back a year it seems highly unlikely that it will go ahead, with Sweeney revealing a final decision would be settled by the end of the month.

"I wouldn't say absolutely the tours are off. We've set ourselves a deadline, with World Rugby, for the end of April to make a decision on that one," he said.

England are due to tour Japan in July
England are due to tour Japan in July (Ashley Western/PA)

"You'd probably say (postponement) is a strong possibility but it's slightly different to the Olympics. With the Olympics you've got, say, 11,000 athletes coming into Tokyo and different parts of the world at different stages in the crisis.

"With a tour you've got two countries involved so it's a bit more dependent on the state of Japan and the state of England. But these are exceptional times and there are God knows how many contingency plans should the July tours be off.

"It would be premature to say there are any favourite options among those but there are a number we are looking at."

Eddie Jones, who has signed a new contract, has taken a temporary pay cut
Eddie Jones, who has signed a new contract, has taken a temporary pay cut (Adam Davy/PA)

Sweeney and his executive team, joined by Jones, have taken pay cuts of 25 per cent in response to anticipated losses of up to £50million at Twickenham, and he went on to explain other cost-cutting measures.

He revealed more than 300 employees had been placed on furlough, with the potential for more to come.

"We're heavily involved in that furlough programme. We've got 540-odd employees, 340 of those are now currently on furlough so that's 62 per cent of the organisation," he said.

"We'll re-evaluate that, probably in a week or two weeks' time, and that furlough number may go up slightly."

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England head coach Eddie Jones pictured in March 2020
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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
JapanJapan124521
ChinaChina115824
United StatesUnited States1011930
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia78520
AustraliaAustralia61916
Great BritainGreat Britain56415
Today's Olympic highlights header

Wednesday's key events


ROWING
· Team GB have dominated the men's coxless fours in recent Olympics, winning on each of the last five occasions, but this year they face some stiff competition. They are one of four rowing medal contenders for Great Britain today (2.10am)

SWIMMING
· Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus face off again in the women's 200m freestyle final, with the latter having already come out on top in the 400m event (2.41am)
· Team GB's Abbie Wood is among the medal contenders in the women's 200m individual medley final, while teammate Alicia Wilson will also take part. USA's Kate Douglass was the fastest qualifier, while world and Olympic record holder Katinka Hosszu is also involved (3.45am)
· Katie Ledecky could make it two golds in one morning as she goes into the 1500m freestyle final as heavy favourite, having broken the Olympic record in qualifying (3.54am)
· Team GB were by far the fastest qualifiers for the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final and will therefore be favourites for another gold in the pool (4.26am)

RUGBY SEVENS
· Team GB take on New Zealand in the first men's semi-final, having been beaten by reigning champions Fiji but then come from behind to overcome USA on day two (3am)
· The sevens gold medal match takes place at Tokyo Stadium, with the winner of Great Britain vs. New Zealand taking on either Argentina or Fiji (10am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· Joe Fraser and James Hall compete for Team GB in the men's all-around final (11.15am-2.10pm)

CYCLING
· Anna Shackley will take part in the women's road time trial (from 3.30am)
· Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart have medal ambitions for Great Britain in the men's road time trial, although both will need to recover from the crash they suffered on Saturday (6am)

DIVING
· Jack Laugher bids to retain his men's 3m synchro diving title alongside new partner Daniel Goodfellow (7am)

EQUESTRIAN
· Charlotte Dujardin will look to add to her already legendary status with a third successive Olympic individual dressage title (9.30am-1.25pm)

> Today's schedule in full
Todays Game Header Right

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