The Western Force has issued a strongly-worded statement in response to reports that its Super Rugby future has already been decided.
A report from News Ltd on Monday night said a decision had been made to axe the Force should South Africa agree to drop two teams and Australia one in a 15-team format, reportedly agreed on in principle at a SANZAAR meeting earlier this month.
Before Monday, there was speculation that any one of the Force, Rebels or Brumbies would be in the gun should the 18 team competition contract.
The Force responded on Monday night, with a statement adamant its survival was still very much on the cards.
"Under no circumstances do we believe today’s speculation around the future of the Road Safety Western Force to be true," it read.
"Two-and-a-half weeks ago, through a national phone link-up all clubs were told that the ARU through the governing body, SANZAAR, was investigating a number of issues and those issues had to be resolved prior to a decision being made to reduce any of the Australian franchises.
"There has been no further contact from the Australian Rugby Union to any of the Western Force players or staff, so at this time there is no further comment on the matter until substantiated facts are put forward."
Some players have voiced their concern after the reports, with Waratahs and Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley throwing his support behind the continuation of five 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
All SANZAAR countries returned to their respective domains to discuss possible competition changes with key stakeholders, particularly broadcasters.
While the ARU is believed to have met with local rights holder FOX SPORTS, any format changes are still believed to hinge on South Africa.
With politics playing a major role in South Africa's ultimate choice, if they opted to keep all six of their teams, Super Rugby would likely remain at 18 teams.
The Force take on the Blues this weekend, in the second leg of a two-week New Zealand tour.
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