London – New England coach Martin Johnson is facing his first major crisis since taking over at Twickenham with the country’s leading players considering strike action in a row over pay.
A day after Johnson announced his first squad for the forthcoming two Test matches against the All Blacks, The Daily Telegraph has learnt that England’s senior players are involved in a contract dispute with the Rugby Football Union which could yet threaten the tour to New Zealand.
Rob Andrew, the RFU’s elite director of rugby and stand-in manager for the tour, is due to meet with representatives of the players Thursday in an attempt to thrash out a peace deal. But if they fail to reach a settlement, or at least agree the way forward with negotiations, the tour could be in danger.
England players are currently paid – 9 000 pounds per game regardless of the result. That is just under 100 000 pounds per annum for the 10-11 matches England play. However, sources at the RFU said on Tuesday night that, under the terms of the new deal on the table, players would be paid a far smaller flat fee up front.
The rest would be paid dependent on win bonuses and how the England team performed in the Six Nations and World Cup. According to one source, the two sides are thought to be about 20 000 pounds apart.
The players are adamant that the introduction of performance-related payments would suggest they might sometimes give less than 100% in a given England game and would therefore call their integrity into doubt.
The honour and achievement that is deserving of reward and on which all payments should be based, they argue, is earning selection by England. The result, they argue, although important, is not relevant in terms of payment.