Angry former skipper Nathan Sharpe has condemned the decision to shut down his beloved Western Force as "the biggest mistake the Australian Rugby Union could have made".

The club's foundation skipper led Friday's vocal reaction to the ARU's resolution "to discontinue the Western Force Super Rugby licence".

Rugby Union Players Association boss Ross Xenos called it "the darkest day in the history of Australian rugby".

Sharpe poured seven seasons into establishing the culture and pride in Super Rugby in the west, and felt the cut personally.

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"The biggest mistake the ARU could have made - Time to clear the decks and start fresh," Sharpe tweeted.

Force hooker Heath Tessmann was scathing in his tweet: "Cowards."

Sharpe, as a former Wallabies skipper, has defended the footprint of rugby in the west from the outset.

Earlier this season, he branded it as "disgraceful that the effort, emotion and passion that has gone into establishing rugby on the west coast looks like it will be thrown away".

Former Wallabies hooker Jeremy Paul, as Fox Sports News rugby expert, slated the decision.

"It's incredibly sad. I believe they got it wrong," Paul said. "They got one thing right today ... Bill Pulver resigned [as ARU chief executive]."

The ARU made its call late on Friday, although the Force immediately responded with a promise they would continue to fight for the club's survival, even if it meant heading to the Supreme Court of NSW.

The ARU decision means the Melbourne Rebels can breathe easily at last.

The only result from here is that the Rebels are in the revised 15-club Super Rugby competition for 2018, and the Force are either dissolved or find a legal method to delay the gallows.

ARU chairman Cameron Clyne said: "We are regretful that this issue has consumed so much of the public commentary on the game in 2017."

He pressed that the decision was "guided primarily by finances" and the "commercial realities" of sustaining five Australian Super Rugby sides was no longer viable.

Following Friday's arbitration decision in favour of the ARU, Xenos was scathing of the governing body.

"Today is the darkest day in the history of Australian Rugby, with the custodian of the game confirming their desire to end the tenure of the Western Force and abandoning the game's national footprint," Xenos said in a statement.

"The future of professional Rugby in Western Australia will now be the collateral damage of the decision-making of the ARU and SANZAAR to expand Super Rugby to a convoluted and complicated 18-team structure against various advice and modelling received, which explained the associated risks."

Clyne said, at a press conference in Sydney, that the contracts of more than 30 players at the Force would all be honoured.

"Players, staff and their families at the Western Force have been put under unprecedented and, quite frankly, completely unreasonable duress throughout this ridiculous and destructive process," Xenos said.

"RUPA has and will continue to provide any support that is necessary for all players affected by the ARU's decision."