Repeat of rare away day unlikely, says RFU
While the Rugby Football Union is expecting a crowd of more than 50,000 at St James’ Park tonight for England’s World Cup send-off match against Italy, insiders have warned that there appears little hope of another match being staged outside of Twickenham any time soon because of the governing body’s financial constraints.
Tonight’s game is the first time outside of a World Cup that England have played a home Test away from Twickenham since Sir Clive Woodward’s side faced New Zealand at Old Trafford in 1997.
England did play Argentina at Manchester United’s ground in 2009 but that was technically a game for Los Pumas, who forwent home advantage for financial reasons. The decision to stage the game in the North East was taken under previous chief executive Steve Brown, who had been a strong advocate of having matches around the country to build on the momentum generated by the 2015 World Cup in England.
England played Uruguay in Manchester in their final pool game in 2015, while there were sell-out matches, not involving England, at St James’ Park, Elland Road and Leicester. Brown, however, had to overcome resistance to taking games on the road under his predecessor, Ian Ritchie, because of the loss of revenue to the RFU, with big matches at Twickenham boosting revenues by up to £10million.
The financial challenges that the RFU has faced over the past year mean it may be another 22 years before another Test is played away from Twickenham.
“I can’t see where the next opportunity will be because the RFU is so dependent on the revenue from autumn and Six Nations matches at Twickenham,” said one RFU insider. “With the RFU’S finanhome
Host: The scene is set for the game at St James’ Park in Newcastle – but England will stick with Twickenham for future matches