ST JAMES’ PARK will host a rugby union international between England and Italy next summer after the RFU agreed to stage a home match away from Twickenham for the first time in 21 years.

The game will form part of England’s warm-up for the 2019 World Cup, which is due to take place in Japan.

The RFU had considered Manchester as an alternative host city, but have opted for Newcastle, which will also host next May’s European Champions Cup final at St James’ Park.

The home of Newcastle United also hosted three matches at the Rugby World Cup in 2015, and has become the permanent home of rugby league’s Super League Magic Weekend.

Next summer’s game with Italy will be England’s first home fixture away from Twickenham since a pair of World Cup qualifiers against Italy and Netherlands were staged in Huddersfield in 1998.

The RFU will lose out financially by moving the game to the North-East, with each home game at Twickenham bringing in around £10m, but chief executive Steve Brown told The Times: “It’s a good thing. It’s always a commercial challenge, but I think the case has been made for us considering more games in the North.”