The Western Force and Melbourne Rebels will learn within three days which of them is to be axed, Australian Rugby Union chairman Cameron Clyne says.

Clyne says the decision on which Super Rugby team to drop will be made by the ARU within 48 to 72 hours and after consultation with both franchises.

It's part of a broader restructure of an unwieldy and unpopular Super Rugby competition format, which is to be slashed from 18 teams to 15 after this season, with two South African sides also to go.

But Clyne emphasised on Monday the decision to cut one of the five Australian sides was taken by the ARU, not Super Rugby governing body SANZAAR.


And he insisted it was in the best interests of Australian rugby with the franchises bleeding money.

"Super Rugby has placed an increasingly heavy burden on the ARU business in recent years and the acceleration of revenue declines in our Super Rugby businesses has placed the game under extreme financial pressure," said Clyne.

"The additional funding provided by the ARU to offset Super Rugby losses has severely limited our capacity to invest further in our grassroots and high performance areas such as player and coach development."

Clyne confirmed the ARU had initially looked at cutting one of three sides, the Force, Rebels and Brumbies, before clearing the Brumbies after "an exhausting analysis of the three teams".

He said consultation was required with both the Force and the privately-owned Rebels to further understand their financial position before the final decision.

Clyne said Australia simply did not have the player depth to support five Super Rugby teams any more, meaning performance and standards had declined.

"Since the ARU expanded to five Super Rugby teams in 2010, the economy we operate in globally has changed dramatically.

"With the incentives on offer in Europe, the player exodus has been significant in Australia and indeed across our SANZAAR partners.

"Based on recent performance trends, it is evident that we do not currently have the playing depth in Australia to service five teams in Super Rugby.

"Performance declines by our teams since the expansion of Super Rugby has had a direct correlation with declines in revenue across their businesses."