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Hopley: New season will be tough

Players' chief Damian Hopley has reacted to the demands of the new season by questioning what state England internationals will be in at next year's World Cup.

Hopley, chief executive of the Rugby Players' Association, views a gruelling autumn schedule as more challenging than the race for the Webb Ellis trophy itself.

England face fixtures against New Zealand, South Africa, Samoa and Australia during the QBE Series in November, with the four Tests sandwiched by two rounds of European club action.

Potentially, Stuart Lancaster's players from the top Aviva Premiership clubs could be involved in eight successive games of high intensity.

"We have two European weekends, four autumn internationals and then two European weekends," Hopley said.

"That's eight weeks that are extraordinarily tough - probably tougher than the World Cup in terms of the demands made on players.

"The World Cup lasts six weeks but that period this autumn will be eight weeks, with the three greatest nations in the game coming to Twickenham, as well as Samoa who are famed for their physicality.

"It's going to be a huge challenge, especially if you have smaller squads playing against French clubs who operate with significantly bigger wage caps.

"The demands on the players now is getting harder and harder. To have those guys available to play in the World Cup in one piece will be a tough ask.

"Managing the players through that for club and country will be difficult.

"It's a fresh challenge and I have every faith the clubs and union will do that."

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