The New Zealand Rugby Union has given the Chiefs preliminary approval to go ahead with a lucrative clash of hemispheres game against French club Toulon next year.
Initially, the NZRU provided resistance to the one-off match in France, with concerns over player welfare the main barrier.
But at a board meeting last week it seems the governing body has given the Chiefs a list of criteria and left the decision in the defending Super Rugby champions' hands.
"We've given the Chiefs some feedback. They've got some things they need to put in place but if they get all that done it's up to them to make a decision," NZRU chief executive Steve Tew told the Sunday Star-Times yesterday.
"We've got a policy with a list of things that need to be in place to ensure the game can be sanctioned by us and it looks like this game would meet all those things."
It would be a unique way for the Chiefs to round off their preseason preparations.
The Chiefs are expected to consider their All Blacks on a case-by-case basis. Loose-forward and co-captain Liam Messam, who has endorsed the game, was hoping to take the pre-season off to rest after the end-of-year tour, while first five-eighth Aaron Cruden's honeymoon may clash with the proposed February 2 fixture.
Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow, lock Brodie Retallick and flanker Sam Cane, however, are likely to make the journey to Toulon if an official agreement can be reached with Mourad Boudjellal.
The comic book magnate has offered to pay for the Chiefs' flights, accommodation and stump up a significant playing fee.
The match would take place one day after France take on England in the Six Nations which, naturally, would rule out up to three French internationals playing for Toulon.
But the Heineken Cup champions can still call on the likes of World Cup-winning first-five Jonny Wilkinson, Springboks wing Bryan Habana, former Wallabies playmaker Matt Giteau and former All Blacks Carl Hayman, Chris Masoe and Ali Williams.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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