Luke Jones played 72 games for the Melbourne Rebels in five Super Rugby seasons.Melbourne remain tight-lipped about securing Queensland Reds discard Quade Cooper but have formally announced that lock Luke Jones is returning to the Super Rugby club.
Jones was granted an early release from French club Bordeaux last month to return to the Rebels, who he left in 2016, but the contract was only finalised this week.
While the lock/flanker won’t arrive at the Rebels until the start of 2019 on a two-year deal, he’s immediately eligible to play for the Wallabies.
Playmaker Cooper has been strongly linked to the Rebels after failing to play a Super Rugby game for the Reds this year, but Melbourne had no comment on his likely signing.
Jones was a foundation Melbourne player and spent five years with the club making 72 appearances.
He won three Test caps before his move to France.
With his eye on next year’s World Cup, the 27-year-old said he wanted to return to Australia and was impressed by the Rebels’ recent growth.
“Having observed the transformation of the club over the last year, it’s obvious the Rebels have taken massive steps forward on and off the field and I want to be a part of that,” Jones said in a statement.
“I wanted to find a world class rugby program that would help take my game to the next level and speaking with (coach) David Wessels and a few of my former teammates and looking at the quality of the list at the Rebels, it’s going to be a great challenge for me week to week to earn my spot.”
Jones’s return is timely after the departures of Lopeti Timani, Amanaki Mafi and Geoff Parling.
“Luke left Melbourne as a very good player and his game has developed further over in Europe,” Rebels general manager of rugby Nick Ryan said.
Meanwhile, the Rebels are set to lose their major sponsor Legacy Property and Investment Group.
The financially-troubled business is facing prospective strike-off action by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), which is set to cut short their two-year sponsorship.
Melbourne said it would not have any material impact on their own viability.