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The Rugby Football Union is ready to explore the “nuclear” option of introducing central contracts for England players as powerbrokers seek a solution to the financial crisis with the chief executive, Bill Sweeney, insisting “everything is on the table”.

The plight of Worcester and Wasps has accelerated plans for the RFU and the Premiership clubs to reshape the domestic game with Sweeney conceding the existing structure “is not ideal for club or country and we’re all fed up with it”.

Central contracts have surfaced perennially since the union failed to introduce them when the game went professional but, with player wages increasing, officials from the RFU and Premiership Rugby Limited have conceded the financial crisis has arrived, in part, because the clubs’ costs far outweigh their revenues.

As a result the idea of central contracts has arisen again because many England stars are in effecty paid two salaries – around £23,000 per Test as well as lucrative deals at their clubs.

The Exeter director of rugby, Rob Baxter, said recently that the model does not work and makes developing and keeping hold of England internationals problematic at a time when Test players miss around 50% of their club’s Premiership games amid tighter salary cap constraints.

Sam Simmonds has already agreed a move abroad next season and a host of other internationals are expected to follow with better wages on offer, despite the fact that makes them ineligible for England as per the RFU’s existing regulations.

Sweeney favours proposals to introduce a 10-team Premiership for the 2024-25 season, when the next Professional Game Agreement comes into force, to ensure fewer Premiership matches clash with the international windows while central contracts would alleviate club costs and give the RFU far better access and control over its players – something Eddie Jones has consistently wanted more of throughout his tenure.

“I think everything is on the table to be discussed,” Sweeney said. “There are certain phrases which are like nuclear buttons and the phrase ‘central contracts’ tends to have that nuclear effect.

“In terms of the higher salaries for the elite players, the time they spend playing for England and the time they spend playing for their club – is there a different way we can work with PRL and work with the clubs in order to mitigate the expense they are facing on that side of things and have a better structure in place so we achieve greater financial stability for the clubs and we also achieve better quality of players coming into the national team? I would say that all of these possibilities are on the table because of what’s happened.

“I don’t like using the phrase but this has created an opportunity, but it is an opportunity to look at everything that has been knocking around for quite some time. This is the time to address that.

“I don’t think there has ever been a bigger opportunity since the game went professional for us to come around the table in an active, open and transparent manner.”

Sweeney also acknowledged the RFU regulation which dictates players based outside England are ineligible for the national team would be looked at as part of wider discussions with allowances already made for Worcester players as well as those at Wasps, assuming the club enter administration on Monday. “I’ve heard of a number of players saying they have intentions or would look at going abroad after the World Cup so we’ll have to address that.”

Sweeney is also an advocate of introducing an independent audit of clubs’ finances, as is the case in France, and conceded the need for the RFU to reconsider its fit and proper person’s test for owners after Worcester’s former director of rugby Steve Diamond suggested the union had stood by and watched the Warriors’ demise. “That would come under the heading of regulatory control and governance reform,” he said.

“We do currently have a fit and proper test. Is it fit and proper enough? We need to look at everything coming out of this experience and there is probably a question linking with Worcester and how did they pass that test going back in time.”

Meanwhile London Irish issued a statement on Sunday describing reports of a possible merger between the club and Wasps as “total and utter speculation”.