The 36-year-old, who played 32 tests for England between 2012 and 2015 and played a further three internationals for the Lions during their 2013 tour of Australia, bucked the trend of players moving north to end their playing careers in Europe and Japan by opting to play for the Melbourne Rebels in Super Rugby.
Parling’s shift from the Exeter Chiefs to the Rebels ahead of the 2018 campaign proved to be an eye-opener for the former lock, who is now on the Melbourne side’s coaching staff as an assistant to head coach Dave Wessels.
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He went on to make 11 appearances for the Rebels before hanging up his boots last year following a brief stint in Japan with the Munakata Sanix Blues, and wrote about his experience in the southern hemisphere’s premier club competition in a recent column for Rugby World magazine.
“There are many factors involved in moving abroad. No one size fits all,” Parling said.
“Some lads will improve from staying in a team at home. Super Rugby is definitely different and I think experiencing it for a season earlier in my career would have improved me.”
However, he added that a stint in Super Rugby during the opening stages of his career would have needed to occur when he was in his early 20s, but he was unsure if he would have been good enough to get such an opportunity at that point.
“I wouldn’t have even considered it as a younger player because I always had the aim of playing for England. It also depends on the club and the deal – Joe Marchant has joined the Auckland Blues in a good deal and when he’s done that he will go back to Harlequins,” Parling said.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 7, 2020
For experienced players, Parling suggested that a shift south would be dependent on what the person in question wanted to get out of the experience, as Super Rugby clubs don’t have the financial might to fund player wages as healthily as European and Japanese clubs can.
“If you’re looking at longer term and thinking about your whole rugby career, playing abroad could be good for you,” he said.
“If I had gone to Super Rugby earlier, I would have seen the game in a different way. You can tell just from watching it that it’s looser, quicker. The way the majority of Super Rugby teams view attack is different to the UK.
“We looked at a stat recently that said even if you concede three tries in a game, you’ve still got a 52-54 percent chance of winning the game. After conceding three tries! I don’t think that would be the same in the English Premiership,” he said.
“But the skill-set and pace in attack would certainly develop European players.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 6, 2020
Opportunities have arisen in recent seasons for players of all ages from Britain to play professionally in the southern hemisphere.
English stars Danny Cipriani and James Haskell played for the Rebels and Highlanders in the early stages of the last decade, and Scotland international Huw Jones won his first test cap after impressing for the Stormers in 2016.
The same can be said of England playmaker Piers Francis, who played two seasons for the Blues, while uncapped Irish prop Oliver Jager has featured prominently for the Crusaders throughout their hat-trick of title successes since debuting for them in 2017.
“What I have learnt here is how to see things differently, such as statistical analysis and how teams look at each other,” Parling wrote.
“We’ve got massive amounts of team travel that you don’t have to deal with in the UK, so factors like jet lag and different squad sizes need to be considered.
“Playing against Australian teams is different to facing Kiwi teams and that is very different from facing South African teams. Being here has really opened my eyes.”
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