Kurtley Beale coming to Waratahs' rescue?
IT is the scenario too outlandish to believe, but it remains possible that Kurtley Beale will be parachuted into the Waratahs side to help them make the Super Rugby finals this year.
NSW coach Daryl Gibson said he's had no discussions with Beale about the prospect of playing in the Tahs' final two games, against the Jaguares in Sydney and Force in Perth.
But as the Australian conference stands, with the top four teams separated by just six points the Tahs' fate is likely to come down to those two results.
Beale, who has helped English club Wasps make the Premiership semi-finals, will return to Australia in June.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has already confirmed that Beale will immediately begin training with the Australian squad, which plays Fiji, Scotland and Italy in the June Test window.
While Gibson remains unsure whether Beale could be eligible for NSW, given he has signed a deal for 2018, there is a precedent.
In 2015, lock Dean Mumm signed a one-year deal with NSW for 2016, but played in two of NSW's late games to help them reach the finals.
With the Tahs needing a strong run home to take the top spot of the Australian conference and earn an automatic home quarter-final, it would surely be an enticing prospect to bring Beale back.
"I would have to talk to Kurtley and see where his position is at because I've had no communication with him," Gibson told The Daily Telegraph.
"I'm not sure what Cheik's plans with him are, because he is signed to Australia, and the Waratahs for 2018.
"It is not high on my agenda."
Under SANZAAR regulations, a player must have played at least four matches during the regular season to qualify for the finals. So even if Beale played the final two games and helped NSW earn a finals place, he would not be able to represent them in the playoffs.
The same rule prevented Mumm from playing in the 2015 finals series.
But given how financially lucrative hosting a home playoff would be, the prospect of using Beale - starting with a return to Allianz Stadium against the Jaguares on July 8 - seems an opportunity too good to miss.
But first, NSW must defeat Melbourne Rebels to stay in the race alongside the Brumbies, Reds and Western Force.
The Tahs host the Rebels on Sunday afternoon in Sydney, and Gibson expects them to bring a similar desperation to that they showed in losing 29-24 to the Reds last Saturday.
That effort followed news that Melbourne owner Andrew Cox could potentially sell his franchise license back to the ARU, allowing the national body to axe the club in next year's revamped 15-team competition.
"They've got everything to play for," Gibson said.
"It probably has that galvanising effect.
'It is just disappointing we're still in this position [of not knowing which team will be cut]."
Some of the Tahs players played for their clubs during their bye last weekend, and while backrower Michael Wells suffered a hamstring injury he is expected to be fit for the Rebels clash, as is winger Taqele Naiyaravoro after surgery on his broken thumb.