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England players drop RPA and turn to new agency to negotiate contracts and deals

England players and staff pose for a photo after the Rugby World Cup 2023 bronze final match
England players and staff pose for a photo after the World Cup third-place play-off - PA/David Davies

The England men’s team have axed the Rugby Players’ Association as negotiators of contracts and commercial deals with the Rugby Football Union, ending a 20-year relationship between the two.

Telegraph Sport understands that a new agency headed up by Gaia Bursell, who led the partnership between the England men’s team and the RPA for five years until March 2023, will take charge of the international players’ commercial interests from the end of this season. Both Bursell and the RPA presented to the players late last year, with the team choosing to terminate their long-standing partnership and bring Bursell on board.

It is understood that the England players had grown tired of the representation they had received from the RPA which is, in essence, their trade union. The players will maintain their RPA memberships, however, and will continue to be represented by the organisation while on club duty and for matters outside of the international game.

“The RPA are disappointed to announce that Team England LLP have chosen to end the RPA’s status as exclusive commercial representatives at the end of the current EPS agreement in June 2024,” the organisation said in a statement.

“The RPA have proudly represented the England Men’s squad since 2004, consistently positioning them as the best rewarded in global rugby union.

“We will continue to support, promote, and protect all elite players in the English game via RPA representation, including those selected to play for the England Men’s side. A current EPS men’s representative has placed on record that the squad give the RPA their full backing in supporting players across the English game.”

The RPA has negotiated on behalf of “Team England LLP” since 2004, organising Elite Player Squad contracts which encompassed image-rights payments, bonuses and £23,000-a-match fees. It is understood that the partnership was worth around £240,000 a year to the RPA.

As well as taking over the RPA’s remit, Bursell’s agency will also be involved in formalising the RFU’s new “hybrid” contracts, which Henry Arundell turned down in December in order to remain at Racing 92.

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