Sydney (AFP) - Perth-based outfit Western Force on Tuesday dismissed concerns they face the axe from the troubled Super Rugby competition after a report suggested they will be scrapped in a revamped format.
Super Rugby Organisers SANZAAR are grappling with a way forward for the convoluted 18-team, five-nation Southern hemisphere championship and announced some three weeks ago that a shake-up was imminent.
Since then it has been mute on the issue.
In the absence of any decisions, speculation has been rife that it will be trimmed back to 15 clubs, with South Africa losing two of its six teams and Australia cutting one of five.
Sydney's Daily Telegraph stated Tuesday that Western Force, which was founded in 2005, would be chopped rather than the ACT Brumbies or Melbourne Rebels. The NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds are widely considered safe.
But Force chief executive Mark Sinderberry rejected this. "The reports that are coming out of Sydney at the moment are totally false," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"Two-and-a-half weeks ago we had a telephone link up with the Australian Rugby Union and at that time made very clear that there was a number of factors to be considered and there hadn't been any decisions made and we've had no further correspondence since then."
Sinderberry was adamant Western Force was not facing the axe. "It's not a case of whether they should or not, at all. They will survive," he said.
Australian Rugby Union chief Bill Pulver said no decisions had been taken. "At this point, there has been no determination on the future competition format or the teams involved in the competition," he said in a statement.
"We also wish to confirm for the public record that no decision has been taken on the removal of one of Australia's Super Rugby teams."
The competition currently straddles 17 time zones and four continents, resulting in complaints of lopsided contests, taxing travel times and a fragmented conference system seen as too confusing for fans.
Problems intensified in 2016, when Super Rugby expanded from 15 teams to 18 with the introduction of Japanese franchise Sunwolves who are co-based in Tokyo and Singapore, Argentina's Jaguares and South Africa's Southern Kings.