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Parling signs for Rebels despite uncertain future for club

Associated Press logo Associated Press 6/06/2017

MELBOURNE, Australia — The Melbourne Rebels have signed England lock Geoff Parling for the 2018 season despite uncertainty over the future of the club in a proposed downsizing of the southern hemisphere's Super Rugby competition.

Parling, who played 29 tests for England and earned three caps for the British and Irish Lions during the series win in Australia in 2013, signed with the Rebels days after helping Exeter win the Premiership Rugby trophy in England with a 23-20 extra-time win over Wasps.

The signing is the first by an Australian Super Rugby franchise since a moratorium on player contracts was lifted.

"Geoff's signing is a strategic recruitment for the club as we look to evolve our squad and program for 2018 and beyond," Rebels chief executive Baden Stephenson said in a statement Tuesday. "Geoff boasts a wealth of international and domestic experience ... so he will contribute to the strong leadership at the club."

The 33-year-old Parling, who has played in England for Newcastle, Leicester Tigers and Exeter and made his international debut in 2012, said he wanted to test himself in the southern hemisphere.

"Hopefully I can add value to the Rebels," he said, "and help the team continue the great growth and profile of rugby."

The Australian Rugby Union has committed to cutting one of its five Super Rugby franchises in a bid to help revamp the existing 18-team, four-conference competition — and identified the Rebels and Perth-based Western Force as the likely clubs to go — but the decision has been delayed by potential legal action.

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