Northland Rugby Union chief executive Cameron Bell has strongly criticised rumours the Taniwha are in serious danger of not playing in this year's Mitre 10 Cup competition.
The rumours stemmed from a media report this week detailing how four provincial unions – Taranaki, Northland, Southland and North Harbour - might be forced to pull out of the country's premier provincial men's competition over fears they will not be able to pay their players.
The article referenced ongoing negotiations between New Zealand Rugby and the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association regarding an acceptable wage-cut figure which would allow the tournament to progress.
The article quoted North Harbour Rugby Union chairman Gerard van Tilborg, however, it did not name a Northland Rugby Union source.
Bell said the rumours were "pure speculation", which was spread by "people making inaccurate assumptions".
"It flies in the face of everything that I've said to our stakeholders and we've made a really big investment in terms of communicating to our community stakeholders," Bell said.
"We've come out and we've said exactly this message - we are committed to a 14-team competition, subject to these player payment negotiations."
Although he couldn't guarantee Northland's senior men's rugby team would play in the Mitre 10 Cup this year due to the ongoing negotiations, Bell said he was optimistic of a satisfactory resolution.
Bell believed any rumour questioning Northland's ability to play this year stemmed from memories of Northland being dumped from the first division of the provincial rugby competition in 2008, as well as the union's financial hardship at the time.
"I suspect that the people who have got this 'Northland's in trouble' [idea] are holding on to old understandings that are no longer accurate," he said.
"Those comments that came out and they put our proud jersey on the TV and in photos, it just conjures up a negative image of Northland rugby that is wrong."
Bell claimed Northland Rugby was in a strong financial position and was committed to seeing the Taniwha compete in the Mitre 10 Cup this year, which was set to start on September 11.