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23 hours ago
St George Illawarra Dragons skipper Mark Gasnier has signed with rugby union club Stade Francais.
The 27-year-old will leave the Dragons at the end of the 2008 season.
The Australian and New South Wales representative is expected to announce a two-year deal with the French club at a media conference at 11:00am tomorrow (Tuesday).
Gasnier's career has been the subject of scrutiny for some time, beginning in 2006 following attempts to lure the star centre over to the Australian Rugby Union. The push from the ARU stalled when Gasnier was offered a lucrative contract that included third party payments endorsed by the National Rugby League.
The rumours of a switch to Union were further escalated in recent months following claims that Gasnier was still chasing unpaid payments valued at a reported $1 million.
Gasnier will be exercising an escape clause in his five-year contract with the Dragons to sign with Stade Francais, coached by former Waratahs boss Ewen McKenzie.
The news is a big blow to the NRL, as Gasnier was heavily featured in the promotion of the Rugby League World Cup to be staged this year as part of the League's Centenary season in Australia.