A NEW four-year England Elite Player Squad agreement has been reached between the Rugby Football Union, the Rugby Players' Association and Premiership Rugby.
The EPS agreement covers England senior, Saxons and Under 20 squads until June 30, 2016 and includes confirmation of squad and match fees and performance bonuses.
Together with the existing eight-year Heads of Agreement between the RFU and Premiership Rugby, it ensures a stable future for club and country beyond the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
RFU Chief Executive Ian Ritchie said: "This agreement is another major step forward for the RFU, players and the clubs, and I would like to thank the RPA and Premiership Rugby for their cooperation and for reinforcing the partnership we enjoy.
"One of the strengths of the English game is that we have enshrined in contract the release of players from their clubs which gives Stuart Lancaster and his coaches confidence in their availability. Now this new agreement has been reached, we have stability and everyone pulling in the right direction through to the Rugby World Cup in 2015 and beyond. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the clubs for allowing us to add an additional player to the senior EPS for the forthcoming RBS 6 Nations."
RPA Chief Executive Damian Hopley said: "In agreeing this new four-year deal on behalf of the EPS, all parties wanted to ensure that we built on the foundations and progress made by Stuart Lancaster and the squad in the last 12 months.
"The new contract duly recognises the efforts made by all 33 of the Senior EPS as well as the increasing overall value of the players to the RFU and their partners. We look forward to working collaboratively with the England squad and the RFU to deliver these rights, and I would like to thank the England Players Committee for their invaluable and professional input throughout these good natured negotiations."
Premiership Rugby Chief Executive Mark McCafferty said: "We are delighted to be playing our part in giving Stuart Lancaster and the England team everything they need on the road to 2015 and we look forward to the continued support of the players and the RFU to ensure Aviva Premiership rugby goes from strength to the strength.
"We've shown flexibility in allowing Stuart to make seven changes to the EPS this month and to add a 33rd player to give him increased options following the law changes for international rugby rugby to increase the match day squads to 23, as is already been the case in Aviva Premiership rugby."