GLOUCESTER Rugby's recruitment process for next season continues with the news that this year's Guinness Premiership finalists have secured the services of Australia hooker Jeremy Paul from the ACT Brumbies on a three-year deal.
Paul, capped 72 times by the Wallabies since his debut against Scotland in 1998, will join up with his new team-mates at Kingsholm following the conclusion of the World Cup in France this autumn.
In his career to date he has won most of the game's major honours including the 1999 World Cup and two Tri-Nations titles with Australia, plus two Super 12 titles with the Brumbies. In 2005, Paul received the highest individual award in the Australian game when he was awarded the John Eales medal, voted for by his fellow internationals.
"This is a major signing for Gloucester Rugby and I'm delighted that Jeremy will be running out at Kingsholm next season," head coach Dean Ryan told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk.
"He will add tremendously to the talent at our disposal, but more importantly as someone with more than 70 international caps he will bring huge experience and leadership qualities to the side.
"We're building a squad capable of consistently challenging for the major domestic and European honours, and Jeremy is a key part of the jigsaw."
Paul, 29, was born in New Zealand but moved to Brisbane as a teenager where he began his career with Easts Rugby Club. After starring for the Australian Under 21's in 1997, Paul joined the ACT Brumbies in 1998, making his Super 12 debut against the Cats and Test debut against Scotland in the same year.
"I've been fortunate to be involved in one of the most exciting periods for Australian rugby and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the ACT Brumbies and the Wallabies for playing such an important part in my life for so long," said Paul.
"I still have some ambitions to fulfill in the international game before I depart, but this is a new chapter in my life for both my family and I, and we're really looking forward to moving to the UK.
"I had the opportunity to visit Kingsholm to watch a match and it certainly lived up to its reputation. I met with Dean Ryan and the coaching staff and we share a lot of common beliefs about how the game should be played. Hartpury College is a really impressive training set-up and I know that if we continue to get things right off the field then we'll have a lot of success on it."
Paul, who has signed up to Gloucester until June 2010, reinforces Dean Ryan's options at hooker. Last month they announced the signing of Andy Titterrell from Sale, plus the re-signing of French forward Olivier Azam for next season. England under-20 hooker Ross McMillan will be in his second year with the club since joining from Nottingham last summer.
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.
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.
Looking to try a new sport? Look no further than Walking Rugby as thanks to Gloucester Rugby you can come along and try out the fast-growing sport at taster sessions across the county, starting this Wednesday.
Gloucester return to European Rugby Challenge Cup action on Thursday evening with the visit of Stade Rochelais to Kingsholm (kick off 7:45pm). Early Bird ticket prices are available until 6:30pm on matchday.
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.