England's Parling joins under-threat Rebels
Sydney - Former England lock Geoff Parling has signed to play for the Melbourne Rebels in 2018, the club said on Tuesday, even though they are one of two Australian Super Rugby franchises facing the axe.
The 32-Test veteran has just won the English Premiership trophy with Exeter Chiefs.
"Geoff's signing is a strategic recruitment for the club as we look to evolve our squad and programme for 2018 and beyond," said Melbourne Rebels chief executive Baden Stephenson.
"Geoff boasts a wealth of international and domestic experience ... so he will contribute to the strong leadership at the club, along with his world class lineout skills and hard running qualities which will complement our squad."
Stephenson did not mention fears that the Rebels will be cut from next season's Super Rugby tournament.
All five Australian franchises are struggling and either the Rebels or the Western Force are expected to be culled when the competition reverts to 15 teams next season from the current 18.
The Australian Rugby Union last week promised to honour players' contracts if their club is axed, but conceded legal difficulties could force them to keep all five sides.
The board lifted a moratorium on Super contracts and offered assurances to players for the two clubs who are in limbo over their futures.
Parling played for the Newcastle Falcons and Leicester Tigers before moving to Exeter in 2015.
The 199-centimetre and 117-kilogram lock debuted for England in 2012 and toured Australia with the British and Irish Lions in 2013.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to test myself in the southern hemisphere that Super Rugby brings," Parling said in a statement.
"Hopefully I can add value to the Rebels, and help the team continue the great growth and profile of rugby in Victoria."
He will join the team in January 2018.
The Rebels lie bottom of the Australian conference having lost all six of their matches this season.