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."
Previewing Friday evening's local derby at Bristol, Interim Head Coach Jonny Bell told the local media that Gloucester's preparations have gone well and that the whole squad is united in trying to finish the season on a high.
Speaking to GRTV this week, Acting Head Coach Jonny Bell spoke of his pleasure in the efforts and intensity in training from the squad after a tricky few weeks. The team were preparing for big games with Bristol and Cardiff in coming weeks.
Willi Heinz was understandably and visibly disappointed when he spoke to GRTV after the 27-30 home defeat to Harlequins, apologising to the home support as the game slipped away after seemingly having the game under control.
Speaking to the local media this week, Scottish centre Matt Scott spoke of the squad's determination to put in a big home performance against Harlequins, with vital points up for grabs in the hunt for a Top Six spot this Saturday (KO 3pm)
Looking ahead to Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture at home to Harlequins (kick off 3pm), Head Coach Laurie Fisher told the local media that Gloucester will need to be on top of their game in a match which has big implications in terms of top six ambitions.
A big few days for the Gloucester-Hartpury Women side. First came the news that the team will compete in Women's Super Rugby next season, and on Saturday the team will play Worcester Ladies IIs at Kingsholm. Centre Hannah Jones and wing Michelle Ruddock spoke to GRTV this week to reflect on events.
Missing so many starters, and up against a team fighting for their Premiership existence, Gloucester did what had to be done at Ashton Gate on Friday evening battling their way to a 32-14 Aviva Premiership win over Bristol Rugby.