Nic Stirzaker won’t be back in Melbourne until March, signing a short-term contract with Premiership club Saracens.
Stirzaker, who had been linked with a UK move in recent weeks, has signed an injury cover contract with the English powerhouse that ends in March, the club announced overnight.
That means he will miss the Rebels’ Super Rugby opener, against the Reds on February 23, an intriguing situation amid plenty of change in Melbourne.
Though Stirzaker has led the Rebels for the past two seasons, he is far from guaranteed a starting spot in 2018, with the signing of Wallabies starter Will Genia and former Force scrumhalf Michael Ruru.
Stirzaker has been with the team for a couple of weeks, before the official announcement on Friday morning, and said he was enjoying the experience.
“I’ve settled in really well, St Albans is a cool place; the club’s been really great and it’s a cool bunch of guys,” he said.
“The last couple of games have been two good wins so it’s a good place to be around.
“I’m looking forward to learning from some really quality players here as well as learning from the way the team plays; the game is based around a kick-chase and accurate kicking which is something I’m really keen to develop.”
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said Stirzaker would bring strong skill with him.
“Nick’s an experienced player, he’s got 60 Super Rugby caps which is a lot for a young man,” he said.
“He’s a very exciting scrum-half with great passing ability, great running ability and with Henry Taylor out for the rest of the season and with Richard Wigglesworth’s recent injury we felt a little bit vulnerable in that area, so it’s great to be able to bring Nick’s quality across.”
Stirzaker joins a number of Aussies in taking up a short-term contract overseas, with former Rebels teammate James Hanson signing with Gloucester, and opting to stay permanently, flyhalf Jono Lance recently returning from a stint with Worcester and Brumbies playmaker Christian Lealiifano playing with Ulster.
He is signed with the Rebels for 2018, having committed for one more year midway through 2017.