Kate Middleton may be announced as the new patron of English rugby, a role which was previously held by her brother-in-law Prince Harry. Her new patronage will pit her against her husband Prince William, who backs Welsh Rugby.

Sources told the Daily Mail that the Duchess of Cambridge is due to be unveiled as the patron of the Rugby Football Union "imminently." If she is allotted the position, she will become the first member of the British royal family to take over any of the patronages that were left vacant by Prince Harry when he stepped back as a working royal.

It will also put her in direct competition with her husband, who has been the patron of the Welsh Rugby Union since 2016. If her appointment is announced within a few days, the Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge will be seen backing rival teams at England's Six Nations campaign which is due to begin next week.

Prior to Prince Harry, the patronage used to be handled by Queen Elizabeth II herself. Before taking over the role from his grandmother in 2016, the Duke of Sussex served as the England team's vice patron for six years and was also seen as a committed ambassador. He had even gone on an alleged 25-hour drinking session with the team in Paris in 2007 after they lost the World Cup.

He had to step down from the role in February last year, over a year after he quit as senior royal and relocated to the United States. The RFU among other patronages was left to him for a year-long "cooling off" period after his exit in case he and Meghan decide to make a comeback as working royals, but all the patronages were taken away from him after a summit last year where the couple reiterated their intention to be financially independent.

The palace's statement at the time had noted that the couple's "honorary military appointments and royal patronages" will be "returned to Her Majesty before being redistributed." However, none of these positions have been reassigned yet.

Some suspect that the Queen hasn't distributed the roles yet as she does not want to risk antagonising her grandson who has made several claims about the royal family and British monarchy in his interviews since his exit, and is due to release a memoir later this year. One source said, "People just tread a bit carefully when it comes to them."

However, the 95-year-old can't put off the task any longer as there is an urgent need for a figurehead at English rugby with the Six Nations Championship coming up next. Kate, who is already the royal patron of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, is likely to be given the responsibility and will be seen "front and centre" at the upcoming games.

Kate Middleton, Prince William
19 December 2016: Prince William, Kate Middleton and Prince Harry stand ready to give an award during a visit to The Mix, London Alastair Grant/Reuters