2003 Tri-Nations
All Blacks put pen to paper just in time
Graham Jenkins
July 30, 2003
The All Blacks celebrate with the 2003 Tri Nations trophy and the Bledisloe Cup after their 21-17 victory over Australia, New Zealand v Australia, Tri Nations, Eden Park, August 16 2003.
The All Blacks have dominated the rugby scene in recent times © Getty Images
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Well, they left it late but the All Blacks have become the 20th and final country to put pen to paper to sign the Rugby World Cup Agreement.

The deal New Zealand's players struck with their Union over their remuneration package came just 24 hours before the International Rugby Board's deadline and ended fears of the possibly embarrassing situation where the IRB would have to lay sanctions against the favourites for the World Cup crown.

The deal they finally struck adds up to NZ$80,000 (£29,000) a man if they go all the way and win, some way short of the NZ$120,000 the players had demanded, and the Union have insisted they will have to exploit any commercial opportunities that might arise from an All Blacks World Cup triumph to make up the additional moneys they settled on.

New Zealand's Mils Muliaina feels the force of Wallaby Wendell Sailor. (Getty Images)

These figures fall some way short of the recently publicised deals reportedly struck by France (£107,000) and Australia (£81,000) and you can expect that rivals England and South Africa have similar lucrative deals on the line if they win the big one. The variation underlines the continuing financial gulf between even between the game's biggest names and supposed strongest brands.

You cannot criticise the NZRU power brokers for sticking to their budget and refusing to get carried away. If their figures are correct their would be no point in dragging the game in New Zealand into debt just to reward the current All Blacks' success because it would jeopardise their ability to nurture and support future success.

One must also spare a thought for the smaller nations such as Georgia whose financial shortcomings make it difficult to get their squad together in one place at one time. You can bet they look enviously at the seemingly constant debate at the top level of the game over the last few months surrounding World Cup bonuses.

Talking of the game's biggest brands, it appears the pulling power of the world's No.1 one team, England, is not having the desired effect in Wales. Surely not I hear you say! Only 17,000 tickets have been sold for a fixture that within the Six Nations arena would have people clambering for tickets. In fact, you would be lucky to even hear of a possible 'spare' doing the rounds let alone see one! The Welsh Rugby Union's response to the disappointing sales for this game and the others against Scotland and Romania? Start selling tickets in supermarkets!

The WRU's deal with Tesco, who's very apt slogan is 'every little helps', is aimed at tapping into a previously uncharted territory. WRU chief executive David Moffett has some grand plans to shake up ticket distribution in Wales and his desire to sell a large proportion direct to the public is no secret. Should this be a success you may see the likes of Wales skipper Martyn Williams tucking a pair of tickets into your basket at the supermarket without you looking.

Back to the action, and the formidable form of the All Blacks. Another half-century of points and a dazzling backs display will have once again sent tremors around the world but the shortcomings in their game were there for all to see. Their lineouts for one were far from perfect, and I wasn't surprised to hear coach John Mitchell play down the win and insist there was plenty of improvement to be made.

Their backline once again stole the headlines after their forwards grabbed enough ball to keep them well supplied. There seems a simple answer to stop the onslaught, a method England applied effectively, don't let them have the ball and then they won't hurt you.

The Wallabies still have time to turn things around and don't be surprised if things start clicking for them before too long. And the Boks still have more questions than answers. Either way the try-fests we've witnessed in the last few weeks make for exciting viewing - what price another hat-full of tries this weekend?

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.

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