IAIN BALSHAW, the British Lion and England winger/full-back, has joined Gloucester Rugby on a two-year contract from Leeds Tykes.
The 27-year-old is the third international to join Gloucester ahead of next season, following in the footsteps of Italian duo Marco Bortolami and Carlos Nieto.
Balshaw has made 106 Premiership appearances for Bath and Leeds scoring 38 tries, as well as winning 24 England caps as one of the most dangerous game-breakers and broken-field runners in the business.
"We have made some clearly defined and outstanding progress with a group of youngsters this season that has been hugely positive, but alongside that we felt we needed some experience and Iain Balshaw has plenty of that," said Gloucester's head coach Dean Ryan.
"It is a signing I am thrilled about because Iain is a wonderfully expressive and dangerous runner. As a British Lion and England international he will also be a tremendous influence on the young group of backs already making their mark.
"We have made significant additions in other areas of the squad and Iain's arrival once again signals our intent for a season when we will be back in the Heineken Cup."
Speaking of his move to Gloucester, Balshaw told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk: "I'm really excited to be joining one of the true powers of English rugby. I have been hugely impressed by their play this season and when I met with Dean Ryan was left in no doubt about their vision for next season and beyond.
"Gloucester is a club with massive potential which can only grow in the Heineken Cup next season. You are always aware, no matter what club you play for, of Gloucester's tradition, support and the standing it has in the local community and I cannot wait be a part of it."
Balshaw made his debut for Bath in the 1997/98 season and represented the west country club for seven years, scoring 15 tries in 21 appearances in 1999/2000 - the same season he made his England debut against Ireland.
British Lions selection followed for the tour to Australia in 2001 and Balshaw also picked up a World Cup winner's medal for England in 2003, scoring the crucial try in the win over Samoa in the group stages and coming on as a replacement against Australia in the epic final.
A move to Leeds Tykes in 2004 reunited Balshaw with former Bath coach Jon Callard and an ultimately victorious Powergen Cup run earned Balshaw an England recall and Leeds qualification for the Heineken Cup.
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
On a tough evening at Kingsholm, Gloucester could escape neither a suffocating Bath defence, nor the whistle of referee Greg Garner as six penalties and a penalty try paved the way to a 39-16 win for the visitors.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).