New Zealand Rugby is on the brink of a decision. GETTY IMAGES

New Zealand Rugby is on the brink of a significant decision as they prepare for a pivotal vote on Thursday. The outcome could potentially lead to top players breaking away from the governing body if their demands are not met.

Months of underlying tension are expected to culminate at NZR's special general meeting in the capital city of Wellington. At the heart of the matter is the vote on two competing proposals for a new leadership structure for the country's rugby governing body.

While NZR and the professional players' union support a proposal advocating extensive changes, including the election of all nine board members independently, the 26 provincial unions, representing the grassroots rugby community, have put forth their own plan. While acknowledging the need for change, they aim to retain their authority to appoint three members to the board.

The stakes have been raised with the players' association threatening to form a breakaway body to govern professional rugby if the provincial unions' proposal is successful. If neither proposal garners the necessary two-thirds majority from the 90 votes, it could lead to a deadlock and ongoing disputes.

Former All Blacks legend John Kirwan, who was part of the 1987 World Cup-winning team, expresses concerns that the internal conflicts within the governing body could alienate fans. "The saddest thing for me is people don't give an (expletive) any more because they're just sick of it," he told radio station Newstalk ZB. "If you just stop caring, that's when our game is in real danger," he added.

New Zealand's rugby stars have threatened to break away from the governing body. GETTY IMAGES
New Zealand's rugby stars have threatened to break away from the governing body. GETTY IMAGES

Nonetheless, Pete Winchester, chairman of the Canterbury Rugby Union, cautioned that the last-minute threat of a breakaway from professional players is likely to further solidify positions among the provincial unions. "We look after 150,000 amateur players, (spread) around 26 provincial unions in the country," Winchester told Newstalk ZB.

"It's a complex business. We are just saying it would be good to have three people with experience of working in provincial rugby." Richie McCaw, the former All Blacks captain who led the team to consecutive Rugby World Cup victories, urged all parties involved to consider the bigger picture.

"I would urge people that make the decision to not just think about their own patches, but to step above that and think what is right for New Zealand rugby in the long term," McCaw explained to the New Zealand Herald.