As rugby's rulers meet in Paris to read amateurism's last rites, England have taken their first steps into the new world with an agreement between the players and the Rugby Football Union over a new promotional deal which will bring the players pounds 40,000-plus next season.
The deal is the result of protracted negotiations since the World Cup and even now the final details remain hazy. The RFU have not revealed the full sum available to the squad nor the sponsor who is providing it, whose name will go on the England shirt for the first time. But it is expected that the sponsor will pay well over pounds 1m and will probably be one of the three companies for whom England did promotional work last season.
The favourites are Cellnet, who provided England's leisure gear during the World Cup. Courage, one of the England squad's 1995 sponsors, are heavily involved already in backing the domestic club leagues.
Announcing the deal, Tony Hallett, the RFU secretary, said: "The RFU are pleased to announce agreement in principle between the RFU and the England squad for representational, promotional and product- endorsement activities.
"The agreement is within the current International Board regulations and therefore does not pre-empt the Board's deliberations - but could be amended in the light of decisions taken."
The players' negotiating group, led by Will Carling, consisted of Mike Catt, Tim Rodber and Martin Johnson.
Hallett went on to explain what the players would have to do for the money. "They will be under contract to promote the England cause, the England shirt and the game. It is not a loose agreement as it was in previous years. They will be contracted to the sponsors and the Rugby Union.
"But if a player were unfortunate enough to be injured in the early stages of his contract his agreement would be honoured."
Hallett also revealed that the deal was not the end of the negotiating, rather a beginning. "An urgent review of the competitive structure is expressly sought by the players and this on-going discussion will be undertaken through the RFU with the Five Nations, the National Clubs Association and other interested parties," he said.
Unity on the line, page 22