New Zealand Rugby and the Players' Association are set to resume talks in Wellington on Thursday for the first time in almost a month after their bitter public dispute played out over the Silver Lake saga.
The vote for a new NZ Rugby chairman on Monday could also prove pivotal in charting the path for more constructive discussions in the quest for an as yet elusive resolution.
As part of their collective bargaining process, NZ Rugby and the Players' Association have already held six days of mediation – the last session taking place prior to the annual general meeting in Wellington on April 29 - without making any headway on the proposal to sell 12.5 per cent of NZ Rugby's net profit to American technology investment firm Silver Lake for $387.5 million.
Since the AGM, where New Zealand's 26 provincial unions and Māori rugby board voted unanimously in favour of the Silver Lake deal, the Players' Association have tabled an alternate proposal in partnership with investment company Forsyth Barr to sell a five per cent stake in NZ Rugby's commercial rights via a public share float that would raise between $170m and $190m.
Both parties have since engaged in an ugly public dispute that has left the Silver Lake deal in a state of turmoil.
NZ Rugby were frustrated the Players' Association gave confidential information to Forsyth Barr and believe recent comments made by former World Cup-winning captain David Kirk in which he suggested NZR could fall into the hands of "Middle Easterns" were inflammatory and untrue.
From a Players' Association perspective, outgoing NZR chairman Brent Impey has caused irreparable damage to the relationship with leading players in what they believe to be unprecedented emotive attacks over the negotiations around the player payment pool which is set at 36.5 per cent of annual revenue.
Set against the backdrop of this bad blood, the two parties are again set to get around a table and discuss the merits and potential pitfalls of both proposals.
Both parties say they have an open mind to reach some form of middle ground resolution but it remains to be seen whether that can be achieved anytime soon.
At Thursday's meeting, the Players' Association plans to present further details of the Forsyth Barr proposal and are keen to exhaust a thorough consultation process that could see the deadlock drag on for some time yet.
NZ Rugby remains adamant it conducted extensive due diligence before preferring the Silver Lake proposal and that it has the best interests of rugby at heart. The 26 provincial unions last week reaffirmed their support for the Silver Lake proposal.
The resumption in talks between NZ Rugby and the Players' Association comes four days before the NZR board is poised to vote for a new chairman.
The Herald understands Shaun Nixon, the former North Harbour chairman and Blues director, is a late challenger to former Canterbury chairman and accountant Stewart Mitchell and Bailey Mackey.
The nine-person NZ Rugby board gets one vote each in the process to replace Impey, who has served as chairman for seven years.
Mackey, the Ngāti Porou East Coast Rugby Union president and chief executive of Pango Productions, is believed to have the backing of three board members. The successful candidate must gain a five-vote majority.
While the new chairman is not expected to be involved in collective bargaining with the Players' Association, they could help pave the way for mending a relationship that has hit rock bottom.