England players deserve pay deal - RPA boss Damian Hopley

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A top English player deserves to make £1m a year, says players' union boss Damian Hopley.

The new pay deal with the Rugby Football Union (RFU) means an England international will earn up to £300,000 each year in match fees alone.

Along with their club salaries, bonuses and commercial income, an elite player could soon top seven figures per year.

"The market place dictates what they deserve," Rugby Players' Association chief executive Hopley told BBC Sport.

"If players are successful and conduct themselves in a way that is becoming to that role model status, then I think they do deserve it."

The latest RFU accounts showed record profits following the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

"The players generate huge amounts of money for the game," Hopley added. "In the context of the revenues being generated through English rugby, it's a very reasonable deal.

"We wanted to ensure that the players felt they were participating in the commercial upside of the RFU - and despite a disappointing World Cup for everyone, we have seen a fantastic year around English rugby revenues.

"England players in 2003 won £70,000 each for winning the World Cup, while players in this Old Mutual Wealth Series will pick up more than that for playing in four games for England."

Mark Lambert, the vice-chairman of the RPA, denies that the new deal will lead to a disconnect between elite England players and the rest.

"The way you earn respect as a rugby player is the way you carry yourself, the way you behave, and the example you set for other people," the Harlequins prop told BBC Sport.

"All the [Harlequins] guys that have come through the system and gone on to represent England internationally, they are model professionals and deserve what they have achieved in the game.

"We would all like to be earning that money, but it's something that's directly linked to the revenues of the RFU," added Lambert, who has made more than 200 top-flight appearances for Quins.

"The RFU make a lot of money and it's only right the England players get that. There is potential for players to make a good amount of money, but you have to put in that hard work first in order to get there."

The RPA last week held its quarterly board meeting with a variety of issues on the agenda, from artificial pitches to the new rugby calendar.

Hopley says the players' union would fully support the notion of a fallow summer in the calendar post-2019, as revealed by the BBC in September, adding: "The players' voice is on the rise, and rightly so."

Lambert said: "It is more important than ever that the players have a strong voice.

"The game is expanding, there is a lot of money and there is lot of opportunity - and we need to make sure the player doesn't get pulled in too many directions.

"It's an exciting time, but we have got to make sure the game stays the same at its core."

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