The Red Rose remains the richest team in rugby after details of England 's incentive-based pay structure revealed players could earn around £70,000 for winning all their games this autumn.
Eddie Jones ' stars have signed a new deal after agreeing a 25 per cent pay cut last year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which temporarily reduced their matchday fee to £17,250 per game.
England have also agreed to share their payments with non-playing members of the squad.
The new terms are slightly less valuable than the pre-pandemic fee, but an incentive agreement between the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) also gives players a cut if the team exceeds commercial targets.
By contrast, Tonga's players will be paid just £500 apiece for their performance at Twickenham on Saturday, almost 50 times less than what their hosts will earn.
The RFU has arranged to make a 'six-figure donation' to their Tongan counterparts, however, as part of a new partnership that will also see the two teams share coaches in a bid to aid development.
England were still the best-paid team in the sport even on their reduced terms last season, and it's understood the new arrangement includes provisions to protect from certain coronavirus-related hurdles should they arise.
“Player fees for future games have been re-negotiated to include an increased bonus component based on performance,” the RFU said in a statement.
“Underpinning this is a revenue share agreement with the RFU. If the players perform well on the pitch, they will earn the same as the previous deal and if the RFU commercial performance exceeds projected forecasts then the players will share in this upside. The RFU greatly appreciates the strong cooperation and support from players, the RPA and the players’ agents throughout the pandemic.”
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Along with receiving a six-figure donation, Tonga will also borrow an analyst, doctor, physiotherapist and operations manager from the RFU for the duration of their autumn tour.
The Pacific Island nation could benefit from talks being reopened this month to discuss a 'Nations Championship' being added to the rugby calendar.
Organisers are set to resume negotiations to potentially rejig the July and November Test windows to introduce a competition with a clearer pathway for lower-tier nations like Tonga to develop alongside the sport's elite.
The reformed structure could grant smaller nations a more recognised route to compete with rugby's established upper class, though agreeing terms between unions has proved problematic in the past.
Tonga Rugby Union chief executive Peter Harding acknowledged the pay disparity between his side and Saturday's opponents but looked forward to the two organisations expanding their partnership.
“That’s just the system we work with,” he said. “We are not being treated any differently to Australia or South Africa.
“It was really good of the RFU to keep this match on the fixture list because it was meant to be last year and it got called off. This gives everyone in the team the chance to play above themselves, which they are incredibly excited about. We want to see the players go out and represent their country as best they can.”
England open their autumn slate against Tonga before Australia (Nov. 13) and reigning world champions South Africa (Nov. 20) take their turns at Twickenham later this month.
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