RFU confirm possibility of 2017 All Blacks Test

by AAP

England are exploring the scope for staging a mouth-watering showdown with New Zealand this autumn after receiving backing for the proposal from Eddie Jones.

The All Blacks have been approached at a preliminary stage over the possibility of facing the RBS 6 Nations champions on November 4, the date allocated for their fixture against the Barbarians.

In a quirk of the international schedule, 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, but there are many parts to this and many considerations to be discussed."

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 AGBP3million ($A4.8 million) - it is certain to be the largest ever agreed for such a fixture.

Australia will take on England in 2017. Photo: Getty ImagesFurther 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 an autumn fixture list that already includes Australia, Argentina and Samoa.

"We haven't been asked for our support. We will need to understand the details of the proposal before responding," read a statement issued by Premiership Rugby.

Jones had stated after last summer's tour to Australia that his intention is to rest those players who had participated in the looming British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand for the entire 2017 autumn series, but the lure of facing the All Blacks appears to have altered his thinking.

Jones has the opportunity to outline his thoughts when he faces the media at Thursday's team announcement ahead of the climax to the Six Nations against Ireland, in Dublin, on Saturday.

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

Expectation over the encounter has grown since the Wallabies were whitewashed in June and has accelerated further after an unbeaten autumn and the successful defence of the Six Nations, sealed by last Saturday's 61-21 victory over Scotland.

If England topple Ireland in Dublin on St Patrick's Day, 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.