Wales target Twickenham as autumn home venue
Stadium could host 40,000 fans a game in new tournament Six Nations match v Scotland would be hosted in London
Twickenham could host up to four Wales matches this autumn, with the Welsh Rugby Union believed to be close to reaching an agreement with its English counterpart to use the venue, which could cater for up to 40,000, according to onemetre social distancing rules, if fans are allowed.
Wales are in advanced negotiations about playing up to four matches at Twickenham this autumn in a deal that will make England’s headquarters the focal point of a new international “festival of rugby”,
The Daily Telegraph understands. The Welsh Rugby Union is believed to be close to an agreement with its English counterpart to secure the use of Twickenham, given the expectation that the London stadium will be able to cater for up to 40,000 fans now that social distancing has been reduced to one metre, if crowds are allowed to return.
One of the games would be the Six Nations clash with Scotland.
The WRU, which is facing a £50million loss in revenue if games are not rescheduled, has been forced to consider other venues given warnings from the Welsh government that crowds are unlikely to be permitted in Cardiff until the new year.
With a framework for a temporary new tournament, featuring the Six Nations sides plus Japan and Fiji, expected to be rubber-stamped by the World Rugby council this month, the deal with the Rugby Football Union would mean up to eight Tests being played at Twickenham as part of an extended fiveweek international window.
England are also due to play three matches at Twickenham in this new tournament – which will replace the scheduled autumn Tests against the southern hemisphere sides – and will be marketed as a “festival of rugby”, putting London at the hub. The final, which is earmarked for Dec 5, is also expected to be at Twickenham.
New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina are due to play their Rugby Championship, which has been delayed because of the pandemic, in October and November.
The stadium deal with the Welsh will provide the RFU with muchneeded extra revenue. It is in consultation to make 139 redundancies because of the predicted loss of revenue of £107 million due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Wales last played a “home match” in London at Wembley Stadium in 1999, while the Millennium Stadium was being built in time to host that year’s World Cup, with Scott Gibbs denying England a Grand Slam with a last-minute try.
However, it is understood that recent talks have focused on hiring Twickenham because it is more accessible for Welsh supporters and the deal will be mutually beneficial to the WRU and RFU.
England, whose last game was their victory over Wales on March 7, are due to return to international action on Oct 25 for their rearranged match against the Barbarians, which was postponed in May.
Wales’s final Six Nations match against Scotland, controversially postponed less than 24 hours before kick-off on March 14, is scheduled to be the first of four games at Twickenham, on Oct 31, when England are due to complete their campaign against Italy in Rome.
Manu Tuilagi will be available to head coach Eddie Jones as England attempt to clinch the Six Nations title, with the former Leicester Tigers centre understood to have turned down offers to move to France by signing for Sale Sharks. Sale are expected to confirm the signing this week, with Tuilagi likely to remain at the club until the 2023 World Cup.
Jones will be able to assemble his players in the build-up to the game against the Barbarians on Oct 25, despite the clash with the rearranged Premiership final the day before, due to the Professional Game Agreement with the English clubs.
Darren Childs, the Premiership Rugby chief executive, confirmed on Friday that the schedule for the remainder of this season had been all but agreed between the clubs and the RFU. “We have had a huge amount of collaboration over 2020 with the RFU,” Childs said.
“I think we are, if not done, pretty close to done, on an agreement for how the rest of this year will play out. “That has been done in a collaborative and collegiate way which helps the England game, but also respects and helps the club game as well. “It shows a new and increased level of cooperation between the Premiership and the RFU. That is pretty much done and I know they are planning on a game on the same weekend that we are having our final, but
I will let them talk about what their plans are. I think you will find there is a huge amount of agreement about this season and the start of our next season.”
Precedent: Scott Gibbs in action the last time Wales played a home game in England, at Wembley in 1999. The centre scored a famous late try