An insurance wrangle between the Premiership Rugby Limited and World Rugby could see major repercussions for some tier one nations in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup.
The Guardian reported that PRL could prevent certain players from joining their national teams until August due to issues of insurance for injuries picked up while on international duty.
Clubs are due compensation when injuries occur during an official test window, but have recently grown weary of unions, leading to slow payments. It is understood the Rugby Football Union has written to World Rugby in support of PRL on the matter.
If the legal dispute is not resolved, PRL intends to deprive players from joining their teams until when the official test window opens – only 35 days before the World Cup opener in Japan.
Teams significantly affected would include the likes of Wales, who could be left without leading internationals such as Dan Biggar, Taulupe Faletau and Liam Williams for their scheduled training camp in July as well as their pre-World Cup game against England at Twickenham on August 11.
Meanwhile, Scotland would also be left with very little time to prepare their full squad ahead of their Pool A decider against World Rugby Team of the Year Ireland in their opening World Cup match.
Fiji would be without the likes of Leicester's Campese Ma'afu, Newcastle Falcons trio Tevita Cavubati, Nemani Nagusa and Vereniki Goneva, while Samoa could also feel the effects without players such as Newcastle Falcons' Logovi'i Mulipola, Tusi Pisi, Alapati Leiua, Jordan Lay and Northampton Saints' Ahsee Tuala.
Tonga could be left without their captain Siale Piutau and other star players including Newcastle Falcons halfback Sonatane Takulua, Saracens flanker Sione Vailanu, and Leicester Tigers backrow duo Sione Kalamafoni and Valentino Mapapalangi.
England are not affected by the dispute due to a Professional Game Agreement signed by the PRL and the RFU while Southern Hemisphere nations competing in the Rugby Championship will have the advantage of having an extra official window to prepare close to the World Cup, with the Rugby Championship set to begin on July 20.