Damian Hopley, chief executive of the Professional Rugby Players' Association, admitted today it was "just a matter of time" before a deal was ironed out with the RFU.
The contracts will earn each England player a reported pounds 90,000 if they win the World Cup final in Cardiff in November. The contractual stumbling blocks revolve around the thorny issue of players' "intellectual property" rights. They are seeking assurances that their own rights are being upheld and that they are being compensated for the use of their image.
Hopley said: "The talks are at a very positive stage - we're just developing the standard contract for rugby and putting down the markers that will put it right for years to come. There had to be assurances that if new sponsors were brought in the players wouldn't be signing away their rights.
"The guys are really sensitive at this stage, having seen the similar situation in cricket where players have generally been labelled greedy. They don't want to be seen to be grabbing more money - what they're looking for is a contract which will protect their own image at a time when there is a lot of money flying around rugby. They want to ensure everything is sound going into the World Cup so that there will be no distractions."
n The former Australian Test full-back Roger Gould has been hired to assist the United States team in the build-up to the World Cup. Gould will serve as technical adviser to head coach Jack Clark until the end of the 1999 tournament in which the States will come up against his home country.Reuse content