The Super Rugby trophy. Photo: Kerry Marshall / www.photosport.nz

SYDNEY, Australia - The Western Force opened their legal fight to remain a Super Rugby team on Monday as they requested an appeal against the decision to axe them and won an injunction against the Australian Rugby Union.

The Perth club's parent body, Rugby WA, lodged the appeal request with the New South Wales Supreme Court, after the ARU announced their removal from the southern hemisphere competition last week.

The Force have fallen victim to Australia's decision to cut one of its five Super Rugby teams as the unwieldy, globe-trotting competition slims down from 18 sides to 15 next year.

They expect to find out by August 21 if they are able to appeal. The injunction, granted Monday, means the ARU cannot sack or relocate any of Force's players until the issue is resolved.

Rugby WA enjoys the heavyweight backing of billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest, who has called for a complete overhaul of the ARU board. 

The ARU won an arbitration case against Rugby WA last Friday and immediately moved to axe the Force from Super Rugby.

The central issue in arbitration was whether the ARU had the right to axe the Force under the terms of the 'alliance' deal the two parties formed last year.

The ARU bought the Force's licence as part of that agreement, and guaranteed the franchise's future until the end of the broadcast deal in 2020.

But the ARU successfully argued that the old broadcast deal no longer existed as a new one was negotiated following the move to cut from 18 to 15 Super Rugby teams.

In the immediate fall-out from the contentious decision to cull the Force, ARU chief executive Bill Pulver announced his resignation, saying the body needed a "clean slate".

ARU director Geoff Stooke, who is from Western Australia, stepped down in protest at the Force's demise.

The Rugby Union Players' Association condemned the axing of the Force as the "darkest day in the history of Australian rugby".

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