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.
It's the first Gloucester-Bristol derby at Kingsholm in over eight years this Saturday (kick off 4:30pm) and, previewing the game with the local media this week, Defence Coach Jonny Bell stressed that, with both teams in the bottom half of the table, they both need the points.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester front rower John Afoa knows the challenge ahead this week against Bristol, and calls on the Cherry and Whites to make the most of home advantage as a determined squad look to bounce back from a narrow loss to Saracens.
Tom Savage speaks to GRTV and the local media as Gloucester went down by 24-20 at Saracens on Sunday afternoon. The second row was disappointed with the result, despite a strong showing from the hosts.
Speaking immediately after the game, skipper Willi Heinz thought that Gloucester had executed their game plan reasonably well and competed hard against Saracens. However, it wasn't enough but the squad will have plenty to work on this week ahead of the derby match against Bristol.
Gloucester may be coming off their best win of the season, the 38-16 victory over Wasps last weekend, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys admits that Sunday's trip to Saracens is an even tougher test.
After a series of contract announcements last week, hooker Richard Hibbard is the latest Gloucester Rugby player to commit to a new contract at the club and told GRTV how much he enjoys playing in the Cherry and White of Gloucester.
Talk about a game of two halves. Things looked grim on Saturday as Gloucester trailed 0-6 to Bristol at half-time. However, Matt Scott's eighth try of the season got Gloucester off and running, and the visitors fell apart as the Cherry and Whites eased to a 26-18 bonus point Aviva Premiership win.