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England facing possible kit switch

England may have to play their opening match of the Rugby World Cup against Fiji in their away strip and use the away changing rooms at Twickenham despite being the host nation.

It is understood that under World Rugby's tournament regulations, the choice of home strip - in case of a colour clash - and the home dressing room is decided by the flip of a coin.

As Fiji's first-choice strip is, like England's, white it could mean that Stuart Lancaster's side will have to run out for the tournament opener on September 18 in their change stripe, which is likely to be red.

In previous Rugby World Cups, every fixture is assigned a 'Team A' and a 'Team B' determined by a random draw with Team A having the right to choose its preferred dressing room and kit.

Tournament organisers also have to ensure the traditional England changing room at Twickenham has no branding, to ensure it is neutral. The same will apply to Wales for their opening match at the Millennium Stadium against Uruguay, though there should not be any kit clash between those teams.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) brings out two new England strips every season and is bringing out two extra England strips especially for the World Cup - the shirts will not be allowed to carry the name of sponsors O2 during the tournament. The main strip looks certain to be in the traditional white, but it has yet to confirmed whether the change strip will be red.

The RFU signed a four-year kit deal with Canterbury, reported to be worth more than £5million a year, in March 2012. An RFU spokesman said in January: "We have brought out one new home and alternate strip each season for the last five years, as is normal across the sports industry. The prices have remained unchanged for three years and every penny made is invested back into the game."

Meanwhile, Bath pair George Ford and Jonathan Joseph, Harlequins skipper Joe Marler and Saracens number eight Billy Vunipola have been shortlisted for the England player of the year award, voted for by the Rugby Players' Association.

Fly-half Ford has scored 109 points in 10 England appearances while his club colleague Joseph was this season's Six Nations' top try scorer with four in five games. Marler has already won 30 caps at the age of 24, while Vunipola was England's top ball carrier in the Six Nations.

Harlequins full-back Mike Brown won the award in 2014 and this year's winner will be announced on May 13.


From Belfast Telegraph