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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rugby Scrambles to Fend Off Second Bid

LONDON -- Rugby-union administrators in the game's top nations are scrambling to sign their players to fight off a new professional offer that is in competition with a deal they have already signed.


The breakaway professional group, World Rugby Championship, backed by Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer, is said to have approached leading players in Europe and the southern hemisphere with offers ranging from ?73,000 ($117,000) to ?130,000.


"It is a grandiose scheme but will the money be there?" said a skeptical Malcolm Phillips, chairman of the Rugby Football Union players' working party.


"Our view is that the sums being talked about from Australia can't be sustained by television rights."


Packer's rival media mogul and compatriot Rupert Murdoch sealed a 10-year, $550 million broadcasting deal with the Australia, New Zealand and South Africa rugby unions in June.


England's World Cup players will be offered a double-your-money deal as the RFU attempts to stave off the lure of Packer's dollars. A meeting between players' negotiators and RFU officials is due to take place later this week.


Last season captain Will Carling's World Cup squad received around ?16,000 for promoting products.


But, Phillips said, "Next season we will guarantee the players ?30,000 plus.


"Of course we are not in competition with the dollars that the pro circus is supposed to be offering the world's top players."


Meanwhile, the New Zealand Rugby Football Union announced that a panel of top officials is negotiating contract deals with its leading players.


The NZRFU said it has entrusted deputy chairman Rob Fisher, World Cup campaign manager Brian Lochore and councillor Jock Hobbs to liaise with the All Blacks over contract matters.


The NZRFU is hoping to sign New Zealand's leading 125 players to play for five regionally based teams to compete in the new International Provincial Championship against teams from Australia and South Africa next year.


That competition, to come under the umbrella of the new SANZAR organization, replaces this season's Super 10 tournament and is part of the deal with Murdoch's News Corporation. That deal also includes an annual triangular test series between the three countries.


And in Sydney, Australia's senior rugby-union administrator acknowledged the threat from the WRC Tuesday, describing it as "an affront to the rugby establishment."


Australian Rugby Football Union boss Bruce Hayman said control of the sport must remain with existing national and international ruling bodies.


Supporters of the breakaway WRC, including former Wallaby test forward Ross Turnbull, are reported to have approached cable-television interests in Australia, South Africa and the United States as potential backers.


"Mr. Turnbull's proposal is an affront to the rugby establishment, in stark contrast to News Corporation's agreement with the game's proper administrators," Hayman said.


The Australian Rugby Football Union is finalizing contracts to be offered to leading players. (Reuters, AP)