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."
After his last ditch try clinched the 42-40 Aviva Premiership victory over Newcastle at Kingsholm on Saturday, Billy Burns told GRTV that all the Gloucester team deserve credit for hanging in there against a Falcons team who really made life tough for the Cherry and Whites.
Speaking ahead of Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture at home to Newcastle Falcons (kick off 3pm), Director of Rugby David Humphreys emphasised the importance this weekend of Gloucester building on last week's impressive home victory against the Exeter Chiefs.
Speaking to the assembled national and local media, try-scorer Jonny May was delighted and relieved to have tasted victory on Saturday evening, and is looking forward to the European Rugby Challenge Cup final.
Tom Savage delivered a Man of the Match performance against Exeter Chiefs on his birthday on Saturday evening. He spoke to GRTV after the game about the importance of the European Rugby Challenge Cup win.
Speaking to the local media this week, John Afoa described the hard work that the Cherry and White have been putting in and that he is fighting fit ready for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final clash with Exeter Chiefs.
Gloucester Rugby face Exeter Chiefs this Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final, and Charlie Sharples, who starts at full back is relishing the challenge of the big Kingsholm occasion.
Gloucester Rugby return to Aviva Premiership action against the Newcastle Falcons on Saturday (Kingsholm, kick off 3pm), and make several changes to the side that defeated Exeter Chiefs at home last weekend.