Bristol are considering their options after claiming coach Steve Borthwick was appointed to Eddie Jones' England backroom team without the Rugby Football Union obtaining permission to speak with the 36-year-old.
The ex-England plays had seemingly become the first addition to Jones' coaching team on Tuesday (15 November) afternoon but the Championship club, to whom he is contracted, has denied any agreement is in place.
The 36-year-old agreed a two-year deal at Ashton Gate in October after working as an assistant to Jones during the Rugby World Cup with Japan. However, an announcement via the RFU confirmed that Borthwick had agreed to join the England setup with immediate effect.
That announcement appears to have been made prematurely, with Bristol objecting to the appointment less than an hour after it was made public by the chief administrators of the English game. Bristol have confirmed that Borthwick is keen on a role with the England team but that the RFU have acted illicitly in recruiting his services.
"Bristol Rugby want to make it clear that we have not agreed that Steve Borthwick can leave our employment," a statement read. "Steve Borthwick is subject to a recently signed long-term employment contract. Bristol Rugby did not give the RFU permission to speak with Steve Borthwick. Bristol Rugby will take all reasonable actions as necessary to protect the Club's position and, therefore, will not be making any further statement at this stage."
Twickenham chiefs had earlier begun the process of replacing departing coaching trio Graham Rowntree, Mike Catt and Andy Farrell – whose exit following the World Cup was confirmed on Monday (14 November) – with the enlisting of Borthwick, but their intentions have created an embarrassing episode. A former coach at Saracens with Jones, the former lock won 57 caps for England during nine years as an international player, and was briefly installed as skipper.
Prior to the confusion over his role, Borthwick said: "This is a really exciting opportunity to join the England setup and to link up with Eddie again. This is a huge honour to be asked as these chances don't come around often. We have an exciting group of players in England and I am really looking forward to the challenge and getting England beating the best teams in the world."