World Cup winners to wait for rise despite £18m RFU profit

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The Independent Online

English rugby, which yesterday announced a profit of £18.4m for the last financial year, has no immediate plans to reward the World Cup-winning players, who have sparked an unprecedented boom in the game, with a pay rise.

The players, who received up to £83,000 a man for winning the William Webb Ellis Trophy, are currently paid under an agreement with Premier Rugby Limited signed in 2001.

Francis Baron, the chief executive of the Rugby Football Union - whose profit was up 21 per cent on the previous year with turnover increased 49 per cent from £59.1m to £78.1m - said that any rise would be a matter for the PRL, which is funded mainly by the RFU.

Any financial benefit for the players in the near future could come from a renegotiation of the lucrative image rights, which Baron described as "outdated". He said: "I'm sure when the dust has settled a bit next year we will be having dialogue with the players on future arrangements."

The profits have enabled the RFU to wipe out the last £19m of debt for the development of Twickenham, which has just been given the go-ahead from Richmond Council for a new south stand which will increase the ground's capacity from 74,000 to 84,000.

There should be no trouble filling it - all the tickets for England's match against the New Zealand Barbarians on 21 December were sold within three hours of going on sale.

The interest created by the World Cup success is seeing Twickenham selling out of replica shirts and other memorabilia faster than they can be manufactured.

The RFU also plans to keep the game's momentum going in England. It has seen 10,000 extra youngsters start playing since the beginning of the World Cup campaign.

Plans were unveiled to recruit more young players, more coaches, make the game appealing by promoting non-contact rugby and continue the World Cup mania by taking the William Webb Ellis Trophy on a 30-stop nationwide tour over the coming weeks.

David Campese will follow in the England team's footsteps when he walks down London's Oxford Street next week with a sandwich board reading: "I admit the best team won the RWC."

The former Australia international, and a regular England critic, has agreed to take the long walk, which he promised to do if England won the World Cup.