England are ready to stage home Tests away from Twickenham, starting with next year’s World Cup warm-up matches as the Rugby Football Union seeks to make the national side more accessible.
Either Manchester or Newcastle is the likely destination for one of the three to four games that will be arranged in the build-up to Japan 2019.
RFU chief executive Steve Brown views future autumn series as another opportunity to take an international to the north, but rules out the possibility of relocating a NatWest 6 Nations fixture away from Twickenham.
Since the beginning of the professional era in 1995, only five England matches have been held away from their London stronghold with the most recent of those a thumping victory over Uruguay in an otherwise abysmal 2015 World Cup campaign.
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As an occasion the final pool encounter at the City of Manchester Stadium was deemed an unqualified success by the RFU only for Brown’s predecessor Ian Ritchie to rule out any further forays north due to the vast revenues generated at Twickenham.
Brown, however, appreciates the value to be gained from increasing the team’s visibility further afield.
“The game needs to go to a different part of the country. There is no question it needs be more accessible — England needs to be more accessible full stop,” he said.
“There may well be some options that we look at with the World Cup warm-ups. There’s a good chance we’ll start to see us playing in different parts of the country.
“Even though the match was a dead rubber, we had great success with England playing in Manchester in the World Cup.
“There’s a great opportunity for us and we definitely have to do something about that. The key is picking the right game.
“There are some real heartlands in the north-east and the north-west. There’s competition with football and rugby league at the community level, but there’s great history there too.”
He continued: “The other thing is to make it a regular feature. We don’t want it to just be a one-off and that’s the challenge. An autumn Test could be an option.
“It doesn’t have to be a football stadium but we had 55,000 for Uruguay in the World Cup. That’s the scale that we’ll be looking at.
“If we were to take a call to reduce our income, that’s less money to put back into the game, but it’s a balancing act because the game would be an investment to increase interest and participation.
“I have always said the key thing is to make this game relevant and modern but also respectful of its heritage and not lose any of that great stuff and the great fans that have come with that.”