Melbourne Rebels have angrily hit back at suggestions that they could be cut from Super Rugby and threatened to sue the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) over their handling of the competition's streamlining.
Super Rugby's 18-team format will be ditched next season, with two South African franchises and one from Australia to make way.
The ARU confirmed on Monday that the Rebels and Western Force were the only ones from five available teams being considered.
Western Force, owned by the ARU, are expected to be the side to go, with captain Matt Hodgson saying the Perth-based club will "live each day like it's our last".
But the Rebels are furious with the ARU's handling of the matter, blasting comments made by ARU chairman Cameron Clyne in a stunning statement.
It read: "The Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union (MRRU) deny the right of the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) to 'cut or chop' the Melbourne Rebels from the Super Rugby Competition.
"MRRU expresses great disappointment in the manner in which the matter has been managed and immediately calls on the ARU to publicly state that MRRU cannot and is not being 'cut or chopped' from the Super Rugby Competition and advise the public that it had no right to say it could do this or to 'request the Melbourne Rebels to make its case'.
"Last Sunday evening, ARU chair Cameron Clyne advised MRRU chair Jonathan Ling that the ARU had decided to reduce the Australian representation from five to four teams and, further, that the Brumbies were 'safe' and that either the Rebels or the Force would be 'cut'. This was contrary to advice that MRRU had previously received from ARU management.
"We unequivocally reject that the ARU has any ability to 'chop' or 'cut' (ARU words) the Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby licence. Any representation by the ARU, including its chairman, to that effect is legally incorrect and in complete conflict with the constitution of the ARU. The ARU's continued use of these terms and perpetuation of this myth continues to cause significant damage to MRRU and its players and staff.
"Patently through no fault of our own MRRU has suffered significant damage (financial, reputational, commercial and personal) by the ARU's handling of this whole process and its unnecessary public statements and actions.
"Given these actions MRRU has notified the ARU of its intention to seek compensation and at this time has reserved all rights."