THE Welsh Rugby Union and the Ospreys will see out the old year with daggers drawn after startling claims that the governing body were planning for life without Wales's most successful region.
Rob Davies, one of the Pro12 champions' key investors, alleges that the union discussed with the Scarlets last summer a scenario that would have seen the West Walians' recruitment policy being based on Ospreys players.
At the time the Ospreys had been threatened with a winding-up order over an outstanding tax bill.
Davies claimed: "There is no doubt the union were planning a future without the Ospreys.
"Their plan was to introduce a new region in North Wales and that the Scarlets would take our players.
"I had been told during the summer that the Scarlets' recruitment policy was to be based on recruiting players from us because we were going to be put out of business.
"Then we were told by people in the game to be prepared that the Heineken Cup would be going ahead without us. It's incredible but we know this for a fact. The truth has got to come out."
Davies added that the union contemplated a future without the Ospreys "because they thought we were in the weakest position financially.
"The PriceWaterhouseCoopers report into the state of the professional game in Wales hadn't been published then but they thought it would show that we were in real difficulty.
"They didn't discuss the report with us.
"It stated that we were 'fundamentally' the strongest of the four regions, not the weakest."
The union could argue that they were making contingency plans for a world minus the Ospreys at a time when the region had a winding-up order against them postponed for two months over an unpaid tax bill.
That still wouldn't explain why the governing body apparently didn't see the need to ask the Liberty Stadium region how serious was the threat and enquire whether they needed any help.
With four league titles and an Anglo-Welsh cup final success, the Ospreys are comfortably the most successful region.
Last week they attracted almost 20,000 fans to the Liberty for the game with the Scarlets, and they sold nearly 9,400 membership packages last summer.
For them to have fallen last summer would have left a hole at the heart of regional rugby and led to bitter disappointment for their thousands of season ticket-holders, among them children who see the Ospreys players as icons.
Only last week WRU chief Roger Lewis raised the spectre of four regions being reduced to three.
But with the Ospreys the best-performing of the four professional sides, it would beggar belief if they were casualties of any shake-up.