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England boss Jones gives the green light to seek All Blacks clash

By Duncan Bech

England are exploring the scope for staging a mouth-watering showdown with New Zealand this autumn after receiving backing from boss Eddie Jones. The All Blacks have been approached over the possibility of facing the RBS Six Nations champions on November 4, the date allocated for their fixture against the Barbarians.

The game's top two teams are not due to meet until late next year, but it is understood that with the support of Jones the All Blacks have been sounded out over an additional meeting.

"We are definitely playing New Zealand in 2018," read a statement issued by the Rugby Football Union. "If there now might be an opportunity to play them this year we want to pursue it."

Among the hoops to jump through is the size of New Zealand's fee given the Test would fall outside the international window, and whatever the final number - possibly as high as £3m - it is certain to be the largest ever agreed for such a fixture.

Further obstacles are presented by the need to negotiate with the Aviva Premiership clubs for player release and concerns over player welfare that will accompany any decision to add the All Blacks to a fixture list that includes Australia, Argentina and Samoa.

England and New Zealand have not met since 2014, but the clamour for the dominant forces in the northern and southern hemispheres to clash is growing.

If England topple Ireland in Dublin on Saturday they will have become the sixth team to secure back-to-back Grand Slams and will eclipse the All Blacks' record of 18 consecutive Test victories.

Belfast Telegraph

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