Denis Betts has joined Gloucester's coaching set-up
DENIS BETTS, one of the greatest rugby league players of all time, has joined Gloucester Rugby as skills and development coach.
The former Wigan Warriors second row, who won six Championships, Seven Challenge Cups, three Premierships and four Player/Regal Trophies, has joined the Kingsholm club on a full-time basis as part of Dean Ryan's coaching team.
His signature is a significant coup for Gloucester, who are closing in on the knockout stages of the European Challenge Cup and are fourth in the Guinness Premiership.
Betts (36), who will start his position immediately, told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk "I am really pleased to have made the switch and I am looking forward to working alongside Dean Ryan and Bryan Redpath.
"It's a very exciting move in my career and it will be a tough challenge but I will be working on a broad spectrum that incorporates skills, attack and defence.
"I want to try and improve the players individually in terms of core skills and concentrate on aspects of the game that sometimes can get left behind when you are solely concerned with winning.
"I will be looking at the team as a whole and trying to improve the individuals within it - I am really excited about the opportunity."
Head coach Ryan has already made great strides in completing a number of contract renewals with his brightest prospects at the club but this is his first addition to the coaching set-up.
He said: "Having got to know him over the last three or four months we felt that Denis has an awful lot to offer us in terms of skills development.
"He will challenge the normal thinking of a rugby union side and not just in defence. The big area we want to develop is within the skills aspect of the side and Denis is perfect for it.
"His record as a rugby league player is virtually unsurpassed and it is a very exciting move for both of us. It's great for the club."
It will be Betts' first role in rugby union following a hugely decorated career in rugby league. He signed for Wigan from Leigh Rangers amateurs on 14th October 1986 and went on to make a name for himself as one of the most damaging second row forwards in the game.
Not only did Betts galvanise a great Wigan team, he featured in three World Club Challenge matches for Wigan, winning two against Penrith in 1991 and Brisbane 1994. He also had the honour of scoring the first try at the JJB Stadium.
At the height of the Super League war he signed a lucrative deal with the Auckland Warriors in 1995, but returned to Wigan in 1998, and played in the side that lost to Sheffield in the Challenge Cup Final that year.
Betts made 32 appearances for Great Britain - the joint highest ever for a forward - and was also England's captain in the 1995 World Cup final defeat to Australia. In that year he also received the coveted Man of Steel award.
At the end of 2001, Betts moved into coaching as the Under-18 boss at Wigan before moving to the Under-21s. In July 2003 he was appointed Mike Gregory's assistant following the departure of Stuart Raper and took temporary charge in May 2004.
After 12 months of acting head coach, he resumed duties as assistant following the appointment of Ian Millward in May 2005. He resigned from his position in November before taking up his challenge with Gloucester.
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.