Australian rugby would reap the benefits of allowing players to go on short-term sabbaticals to Europe or Japan as the cash-strapped ARU fights to keep stars away from rich overseas clubs, according to Wallabies great George Gregan.
Gregan also hoped the feeling of "something special" in Canberra would keep the ACT Brumbies squad together, despite international teams offering off-contract stars, including Christian Lealiifano, lucrative deals.
ARU contract negotiations have stalled with players being forced to take pay cuts to help ease the financial burden on the game, with reports of some being offered $100,000 less than in previous years.
Gregan joined former Brumbies and Wallabies teammate George Smith in calling for the ARU to investigate ways for players to increase their earning capacity overseas without losing the right to play for Australia.
There are growing fears there will be a mass exodus of Australia's best players after the World Cup next year following the French competition's massive $527-million television rights deals.
The Australian Super Rugby salary cap is set at $5 million from 2014 to 2017 while Test match payments have been reduced from $13,100 to $10,000.
"The threat of overseas is always going to be there ... France is even more of a threat now," Gregan said.
"But players have to make a decision whether they want to be playing in World Cups or Super Rugby, which is the best provincial competition in the world.
"Rugby is not where it was a decade ago in this country ... New Zealand have done well with a sabbatical.
"It comes to a point of where you pull the trigger on a sabbatical and what you've done to receive that.
"It's a good discussion to have because sometimes it can freshen a player up and they come back rejuvenated and keen to play for their country again. There's definitely merit in that."
Brumbies assistant coach Dan McKellar also suggested Australian teams strike partnerships with Japanese clubs to boost player earnings in the Super Rugby off-season.
The Brumbies have a partnership with Japanese club Kubota and Harumichi Tatekawa has been training with the club this year. McKellar spent 18 months in Japan with NTT Docomo as an assistant coach.
The Japanese competition does not cross over with Super Rugby, opening the door for Australian players to sign short-term deals to boost their income if they're not picked to play for the Wallabies
"It's happening more and more. At my club there was [South Africans] Heinrich Brussow and Wimpie van der Walt," McKellar said.
"Now they're back in Super Rugby. As long as the Japanese have access to Super Rugby players, they'd be happy for them to bypass a pre-season.
"But it comes down to the individual and you don't want a fair chunk of your side to do it. I certainly think there can be partnerships and a Super Rugby side in Japan makes sense [in the future].
"Players going backwards and forwards could be the way to go in the future."
The Brumbies have a host of big-name players off contract at the end of the year, including Lealiifano, Matt Toomua, Scott Fardy, Jesse Mogg, Fotu Auelua, Nic White, Scott Sio, Henry Speight and Andrew Smith.
Most have indicated they want to stay in Canberra, but are waiting on negotiations with the ARU before committing to a new Super Rugby contract.
The salary cap could force some players to go elsewhere while captain Ben Mowen has already signed a three-year deal in France.
But Gregan, who was in Canberra on Tuesday, urged the squad to stay together to chase an era of success.
"You know when you're part of something special and a special group when you're chasing the same goals," Gregan said.
"When you started from not much, like a lot of these Brumbies players did three years ago, it's hard to leave. You want to be a part of it, especially if you know there's more ahead if you stick together.
"It's realistic they'll get approached by others because they're part of a good team, but hopefully a lot of the playing group can stay and continue for the next few years."