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

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Ex­clu­sive By Gavin Mairs chief rugby union cor­re­spon­dent

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

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