LESLEY VAINIKOLO - arguably the most explosive and devastating finisher in Super League history - will switch codes and join Gloucester Rugby from Bradford Bulls on 1st July on a three-year deal.
The giant 6'2" winger, who weighs in at 110kg, has scored an unprecedented 143 tries in 146 games since joining the Bulls from Canberra Raiders in 2002, and will add pace as well as physical threat to the Gloucester back-line.
Released by Bradford midway through his current contract after a personal request from the player, Vainikolo, 28, will link up at Kingsholm with former Bulls team-mate Karl Pryce for a full pre-season with Gloucester ahead of the 2007/08 campaign.
Dean Ryan, Gloucester's head coach, described the signing as "one of the most exciting in the club's history".
"I'm absolutely delighted that we have signed Lesley," Ryan said. "He has the potential to be a world-class player in rugby union.
"We had informal discussions a couple of years ago about a possible move, and when we heard that his desire to play union was still strong we moved quickly.
"His try-scoring record is without equal and the challenge now is for us to create the opportunity for him to transfer his abilities to 15-a-side rugby. The modern game requires power as well as pace, which Lesley will bring us.
"Both Lesley and Karl Pryce should be fit and raring to go after a full pre-season, increasing the physicality of the backline alongside our existing options."
Vainikolo, known throughout rugby league as 'the Volcano', has scored 14 tries in 12 appearances for New Zealand, including nine during the 2000 World Cup. In his second season with Bradford he scored 28 tries in 32 appearances and was voted best rugby league player in the world. The following season he destroyed the Super League scoring record with 37 touch-downs in just 26 matches, and his try-scoring ratio has remained at around 1 per game ever since.
Vainikolo said: "First and foremost I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone connected with Bradford Bulls - including my team-mates, the staff and all the supporters - for making the last 5 years so memorable. Bradford is my home and I know I'll be back. I'm determined to go out on a high and want to contribute as much as possible over the next 6 weeks before I make the switch.
"I'm really proud to be joining a club of Gloucester's reputation. They have shown this season what potential they have in reaching the Premiership final, and having met with Dean Ryan and the other coaches I know there isn't a better place for me to be to learn about union.
"Kingsholm is a great stadium, even more so when the new Grandstand is completed, and from speaking with Karl Pryce the off-field set-up is everything you would expect from a top side."
Peter Hood, Chairman of Bradford Bulls, said the decision to release Vainikolo had not been taken lightly.
"Lesley came to see me and said that he still had a burning desire to see if he could replicate his success in rugby league in union.
"There aren't many players who have achieved as much as Lesley has with Bradford, or who have given fans so much pleasure with their performances, which I'm not sure we will ever see beaten in Super League. In view of this and his 5 years of unflinching commitment and service to the Bulls, we agreed that should we be able to secure a world-class replacement we would not stand in the way of his dream.
"Lesley knows he is welcome back at Bradford at any time and we genuinely wish him every success with this move."
Ben Morgan starts at number eight for England on Sunday afternoon as the Red Rose take on Wales at Twickenham (kick off 3pm). The Gloucester back-rower spoke with Gloucester Rugby TV at Pennyhill Park as he and his international colleagues prepared for the eagerly anticipated RBS Six Nations' clash.
Billy Twelvetrees spoke to Russ Hargreaves of Talking Rugby at England training ahead of Sunday's huge RBS Six Nations clash with Wales at Twickenham. The centre is relishing the challenge of fronting up against a smart and talented Welsh back line.
Tim Taylor spoke to Gloucester Rugby TV after the 31 year old fly half announced that he was retiring from professional rugby. The Derby-born pivot, is excited for what the future holds for his new business ventures despite his career being cut short by a knee injury.
Dan Robson spoke to Gloucester Rugby TV at Franklin's Gardens following the 39-13 loss to Saints. The scrum-half enjoyed his battle with Lee Dickson but was gutted at the result as the Cherry and Whites did not do themselves justice, falling off in the closing stages to the league leaders.
Speaking after the game at Franklin's Gardens, Director of Rugby Nigel Davies reflected on a disappointing final quarter which saw Northampton Saints ease their way to a comfortable 39-13 win on Saturday afternoon.
Gloucester Rugby TV caught up with Gareth Evans this week ahead of the trip to Northampton Saints in the Aviva Premiership. The back rower explained his pride in his performances this season but knows there is still a lot for him to learn.
Gloucester Rugby travel to take on the table topping Northampton Saints in the Aviva Premiership on Saturday. Director of Rugby Nigel Davies is well aware of the qualities of Jim Mallinder's side, but Gloucester are the only team to defeat the Saints in the league this season.
Gloucester number eight Ben Morgan is hoping to start against Wales a week on Sunday, a team containing a number of former club team mates. He told the RFU.com website that he's looking forward to the prospect.
After adverse weather caused the Road to 2015 sponsored walk to be postponed from Sunday 9 February, Gloucester Rugby are pleased to announce that the new date has now been confirmed as Saturday 3 May.
Gloucester Rugby Community department are holding a silent auction for a mascot package for the Gloucester v London Irish match on Saturday 3rd May 2014, 3pm kick off, kindly donated by our match day mascot sponsor Rendcomb College.