RUPA has stepped up its efforts to campaign for the retention of five Australian teams, launching an online petition on Thursday afternoon.
The players’ association launched a petition on Thursday afternoon through the website strongerasfive.com, to campaign to the ARU to veto the possibility of axing a team.
A petition is close to the strongest action RUPA can take to try and protest the action, with the current collective bargaining agreement preventing industrial action.
As part of the current collective bargaining agreement, players have agreed not to take any organised action such as a strike, meaning the threat of any major player action would be minimal.
While the agreement allows for individual players to take action or protest initiatives of their own accord, they couldn’t walk off the job in disagreement.
Strikes are relatively uncommon in rugby, but just a fortnight ago the players from Top 14 side Stade Francais took strike action over a possible merger.
Players have been vocal about their desire to maintain five Australian Super Rugby teams as recently as this week with reports that the Force had already been chosen as the franchise to cut, should South Africa move to remove two of its teams.
Hoping reports tonight that an Aus super rugby team has been cut is untrue. Need all 5 teams to develop and grow the game of rugby in Aus!— Bernard Foley (@bernardfoley) March 27, 2017
RUPA boss Ross Xenos has been open about the threat of a player exodus to overseas with the current uncertainty surrounding a number of teams this week, with contract negotiations still paused on non-Wallabies players.
They do however have one potential bargaining chip should one team be axed, with final say over the structure of the NRC each season.
While Super Rugby contracted players are committed to play in the NRC, they could opt to hold off on approving the structure unless an affected provincial team is cut from the NRC as well.
That would mean, hypothetically, that the defending champions Perth Spirit could potentially be cut from the NRC if this week's reports prove to be true.
RUPA could also play hardball with the use of players’ images and other rights should an Australian team be axed, but given the catch 22 situation that creates, that seems unlikely.
Xenos said RUPA was exploring its avenues when it came to possible action should its calls to retain five teams be unsuccessful.
“Obviously, all stakeholders in Australian rugby are awaiting SANZAAR and the ARU’s final position on the future of the Super Rugby competition,” he said.
“We have considered and are considering the options available to the players in order to protect their best interests in the long-term.”
A new collective bargaining agreement is currently being negotiated, with that needing to be cemented this year.