Israel Folau and Rugby Australia could face a February 2020 trial, if they fail to resolve a multimillion-dollar unfair dismissal case brought by the former Wallabies player and staunch Christian.
On Tuesday, Folau's lawyer, Stuart Wood QC, faced the federal circuit court in Melbourne for a directions hearing, during which chief judge Will Alstergren encouraged the parties to settle their dispute through mediation on December 13.
If mediation fails, Folau will fight Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs at a 3-5 day trial from February 4.
Folau wants an apology, AU$10m in damages and his contract re-instated by his former employers, claiming he was sacked on religious grounds, after his April Instagram post about gay people and others going to hell unless they repented.
Folau was not at Tuesday's hearing, which was live-streamed to Sydney.
- OPINION: Time to stop giving Israel Folau airtime
- On-air tension between The Project NZ hosts and Israel Folau supporter
Lawyers for Rugby Australia indicated they might apply for the case to be heard by the Australian federal court rather than the federal circuit court and to have the case transferred to Sydney.
Wood said that was an attempt to delay proceedings and he wanted Alstergren to be aware of "what's going on in the background".
The allegation was denied by Rugby Australia lawyer Adam Hochroth.
If mediation is unsuccessful, the parties will return to court on December 17 or a directions hearing before trial.