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.
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.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
Matt Kvesic was a try scorer and recipient of the Man of the Match award in Sunday's 35-10 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Zebre. He praised the Italian side for their spirited opposition and admitted that next week's return game will be a tough one.
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).