London - Scientific research on ideal rest breaks may be the way to end the threat of a strike by English Premiership players, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) suggested Tuesday.
The players have hit out at proposals from Premiership chiefs to run an 11-month domestic season following the 2019 World Cup in Japan, saying that it will impose too many demands amid already growing welfare concerns caused by the increasingly brutal nature of modern top-class rugby union.
There has even been talk of strike action if players' worries are not addressed by officials.
But the RFU, the English game's governing body, believes that sports science work it is carrying out to determine what should be the optimum amount of recuperation time could nip any potential industrial action in the bud.
"The important factor will be data and information in determining how long the off-season should be," said Nigel Melville, the RFU's professional rugby director and a former England captain, on Tuesday.
"I think that actually will determine how long the season will be," explained Melville as the RFU announced its new four-year strategic plan, pledging to invest £443 million back into the game.
"We have the EPS (Elite Player Squad) deal with the players, so we know the elite players, what they are going to get, their 10 weeks et cetera," said Melville, whose own career as a scrumhalf was cut short by a succession of injuries in the 1980s.
"But what about the rest of the game? What is the ideal off-season?
"So we are doing some sports science work on that to work out what that should be."
Melville insisted: "There's no point sitting in a room and talking about what the off-season should be until we've got the data and the science to say 'it should be this'.
"And the players will be at the heart of that, what is the best off-season for a player.
"Once we get that I think we can work out where the start should be, and working with Premiership Rugby to see where their fixtures will go."
Meanwhile, England coach Eddie Jones is set to discover on Wednesday whether he will need to make any late alterations to his squad for the November internationals at Twickenham when three key players, including captain Dylan Hartley, face disciplinary hearings after being cited while on club duty during last weekend's round of European Champions Cup action.
Jones is due to announce his squad on Thursday.
Hartley, No 8 Nathan Hughes and prop Joe Marler are all at risk of bans which could sideline them for all or some of next month's Tests, which begin with Argentina's visit to Twickenham on November 11 before Australia and Samoa arrive at 'headquarters'.
Northampton hooker Hartley has spent a remarkable 60 weeks of his career suspended as a result of numerous disciplinary offences.
The New Zealand-born front-row was yellow-carded during Northampton's match against French giants Clermont on Saturday and is alleged to have struck Rabah Slimani.
If proven, punishments range from bans of two to 52 weeks depending on the severity of the offence.
Wasps back-row Hughes has been accused of dangerously tackling Harlequins flyhalf Marcus Smith, while Quins forward Marler was charged with an alleged use of the elbow on Will Rowland in the same match.
Owen Farrell and Mike Brown are among those in line to replace Hartley as captain should he miss any of England's matches.