Gloucester Rugby Club has signed scrum-half Peter Richards on a two-year contract from London Wasps as the Kingsholm club continues its recruitment for the 2005/06 season.
The 27 year-old number nine, who was named in England's Churchill Cup squad this week, wants to stamp his authority on the Gloucester number nine shirt when he arrives in the summer.
Commenting on www.gloucesterrugbyclub.com Richards, who has played both scrum-half and centre for a successful Wasps side over the last two seasons, said: "When the opportunity to join Gloucester came up I couldn't turn it down. It's a great club and it presents me with an opportunity to get back in that number nine shirt.
"Hopefully I'll be able to impress regularly at scrum-half for Gloucester which will be good for both the Club and myself."
Director of rugby Nigel Melville, who has been looking to sign a scrum-half after Andy Gomarsall confirmed his summer move to Worcester, said: "Peter wants to focus solely on playing in the number nine shirt.
"He's one of England's top scrum-halves and his call-up to the Churchill Cup squad shows that he's highly regarded. I'm looking forward to working with him, and it's good to confirm another piece of the plan for next season."
Richards, who has made 89 Zurich Premiership appearances throughout his career, joined Wasps in the summer of 2003 after leaving relegated Bristol, and has represented England at various levels up to England 'A'.
"I'm really grateful to Warren Gatland for giving me the chance two years ago. My time at Wasps has improved my game, and I've come on as a player," said Richards.
The talented half-back has played his entire career in the number nine shirt, but has also impressed at centre for Wasps in recent seasons.
"My game has improved playing in the centre, but I want to concentrate on being the best scrum-half and achieving international recognition, which I still believe is achievable.
"I had some great times at Wasps and it's got me back into the international set-up in terms of the Sevens team, and I was delighted this week to be named in the tour to go to North America for the Churchill Cup."
Richards will be meeting up with a few familiar faces when he joins the West Country club in the summer, having played alongside Simon Amor and Henry Paul for England Sevens, and in the same side as Alex Brown at Bristol.
"I was delighted to meet up with Nigel and sign the contract, and I want to be part of what the next few seasons hold at Gloucester."
Peter Richards Profile: Position: Scrum-half
Date of birth: 10.03.78
Height: 1.75m (5ft 10")
Place of birth: Portsmouth
Previous clubs: London Wasps, Bristol, Treviso, London Irish and Harlequins.
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.