England’s two Tests against the United States and Canada at Twickenham next month are to be broadcast live on terrestrial television, with Channel 4 understood to be in advanced negotiations for the rights.
A deal with the Rugby Football Union, which is expected to be completed on Thursday, will see Channel 4 show live coverage of the game against the USA on July 4 and against Canada seven days later.
England’s scheduled tour to North America was switched to the UK because of the impact of the global pandemic, with the two Test matches preceded by an A international at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on June 27.
Eddie Jones, the England head coach, is due to name on Thursday what is expected to be a youthful provisional training squad for the matches. The squad will not include any players involved in the Premiership semi-finals or Saracens, who are in the Greene King IPA Championship final. The full squad will be announced on June 28.
It is thought to be the first time that England’s ‘summer Tests’ will be broadcast on terrestrial television since Channel 5 broadcast matches on the tour of Argentina in 1997.
The deal will be regarded as a major boost for supporters while the high-profile, free-to-air TV presence is seen by many within the sport as critical in reviving interest in the grass-roots game after the easing of the lockdown.
It comes less than a month after Telegraph Sport revealed that the Six Nations Championship would remain on terrestrial television as part of a renewed long-term deal with both the BBC and ITV.
The deal represents a further expansion to Channel 4’s sports portfolio. The broadcaster confirmed last month it had secured the rights to show the British and Irish Lions warm-up match against Japan on June 26 as part of a deal that includes highlights packages for all three Tests against South Africa.
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Highlights of the five tour matches in South Africa will also be shown on All4, the first time Lions action will be shown on terrestrial television since 1993, when ITV broadcast the tour of New Zealand.
Channel 4 also broadcast the Heineken Champions Cup final between La Rochelle and Toulouse last month and and have the rights to live coverage of Ireland’s autumn internationals against the All Blacks, Argentina and another country yet to be confirmed.