Chiefs v Toulon one step away
The NZRU look to have given the green light for the Chiefs to head to France in February to play Toulon.
The New Zealand Rugby Union, via the All Blacks coaches, high performance unit and player's association, look to have given the green light for the Chiefs to head to France in February to play Toulon.
The fixture, now looking increasingly likely to go ahead, will see for the first time the Super Rugby winners play the European Cup champions.
The final piece in the puzzle for the Chiefs is a player management plan for their All Blacks contingent.
New Zealand's governing body would not approve Test players playing in such a high stakes contest in a period where they should be easing back after a necessary off-season.
This is the only area which will need to be signed off, with one of the tenets of the NZRU being that their All Blacks are eased back into Super Rugby competition.
Toulon and their millionaire comic book tycoon Mourad Boudjellal are said to be funding the entire trip, as well as stumping up a match fee for the Chiefs, and there could be a desire to have as many All Blacks arrive in the small French town as possible.
Having the likes of Aaron Cruden, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane would not only ensure the clash isn't devalued with weaker teams, but give the Chiefs the best chance of winning the contest.
After all, bragging rights as the best franchise in the world are up for offer.
While the clash will likely be held around the Six Nations, forcing Toulon into a situation where they will have to abide by the international release window, a mammoth roster will ensure they are not weakened.
Jonny Wilkinson, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Bakkies Botha, Ali Williams, Matt Giteau, Chris Masoe and other former Tests players will likely suit up for Toulon.
At this stage the match has been rubber stamped for February 2.
The European Cup will not be in action, although France will play England in the Six Nations the same weekend.
The Chiefs will treat the clash as their first 'pre-season' fixture, with the team playing the Reds in Toowoomba on February 8, and the Blues in Rotorua on February 14.
Chiefs CEO Andrew Flexman gave more information to Fairfax Media: "It's looking very promising but there is not yet an unconditional green light because there is just a bit more detail to be worked through in terms of written approvals required from the likes of the FFR [the national union] and LNR [the body that represents the Top 14 and ProD2]," Flexman said.
"We've had the verbal assurances we're needing around that sort of stuff but for whatever reason, the French being the French, things aren't moving quite as quickly as we would like.
"But it's probably fair to say that we're preparing within this organisation as if we are all go.
"The players are hugely motivated about it and we think the fact it is something different will be motivating.
"Secondly there is an amazing commercial opportunity for us, and that is probably our secondary consideration, to be honest, but it is attractive and within the organisation, player group, coaching group and administrative staff there is a huge amount of enthusiasm around it - it's pretty exciting."
Source: SANZAR News Service