ALL BLACK prop Greg Somerville has signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Gloucester Rugby, and will complete the move to Kingsholm from the Canterbury Crusaders in December following the completion of the New Zealand domestic season.
The versatile prop, who can play either loose-head or tight-head, has a wealth of experience as one of the most distinguished front row forwards in the southern hemisphere.
Somerville, 30, became the most decorated prop in New Zealand history with 59 caps when he appeared for the All Blacks against England in the second Test in Christchurch on Saturday. A renowned scrummaging expert, he will be a hugely important addition to Dean Ryan's squad.
"The market is now making players of Greg's experience, calibre and undoubted expertise available and once we appreciated his interest and desire to add significantly to our squad, we were thrilled to sign him," Ryan told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk
"To have represented the All Blacks in more than 50 Test matches and be versatile to operate on either side of the scrum, means he is an outstanding acquisition for us at this stage of his career.
"With the likes of Christian Califano and Patrice Collazo leaving the club, we needed an option that could benefit us long-term and we have managed to combine experience, versatility and expertise in one package and that is fantastic for the club."
Somerville made his debut for Canterbury in an NPC semi-final in 1998, was a Crusader the following season, and an All Black within two years of his first representative appearance.
He made his Test debut in 2000 against Tonga and the Hawke's Bay-raised prop became the fourth man to play a century of matches for the Crusaders when he featured in the 2006 Super 14 semi-final victory over the Bulls.
Somerville said: "I have achieved virtually everything possible in New Zealand rugby and to have represented the All Blacks will always be something very special to me.
"But this opportunity has developed and the chance to experience a new culture for myself and my family, and contribute to a side that is already right at the top of the English Premiership was an exciting opportunity to take up.
"I am looking forward to contributing to Dean Ryan's side and prove myself in different conditions and against different opponents.
"Gloucester's front row options are already very talented and I am looking forward to adding to that mix next season."
Fly-half Billy Burns was named Man of the Match after the 35-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup victory over Stade Rochelais on Thursday evening, and was full of praise for all his team mates for the win after a short turnaround.
Gloucester have been in good form in recent weeks, but Backs Coach Tim Taylor knows that the Cherry and Whites will have to be at their best on Thursday evening (kick off 7:45pm) against a Stade Rochelais side flying high this season.
Speaking to GRTV after the bonus point win over Bristol, back row Lewis Ludlow revealed that despite a tricky first half, Gloucester backed their skills to come through, a faith that was evident in a strong second half showing.
Willi Heinz scored Gloucester's second try as the Cherry and Whites overturned a disappointing first 40 minutes and 0-6 half time deficit, to earn a 26-18 Aviva Premiership victory over Bristol Rugby on Saturday.
Gloucester's much changed side had to overcome conceding an early try on Thursday evening, but responded in style to down Stade Rochelais by 35 points to 14 in the European Rugby Challenge Cup and set up a mouthwatering return fixture next weekend.
After taking 11 points from their last three games in the Aviva Premiership, including bonus point wins against Wasps and Bristol, Gloucester will be looking to continue their good form when they welcome La Rochelle to Kingsholm.