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.
Speaking to the local media this week, John Afoa described the hard work that the Cherry and White have been putting in and that he is fighting fit ready for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final clash with Exeter Chiefs.
Gloucester Rugby face Exeter Chiefs this Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final, and Charlie Sharples, who starts at full back is relishing the challenge of the big Kingsholm occasion.
Gloucester meet the Exeter Chiefs for the fourth time in competitive action this weekend, this time in the semi-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. Director of Rugby David Humphreys told the local media this week that this is the sort of game that Gloucester want to be involved in on a regular basis and that he and his team are looking forward to it.
Following the 29-26 loss to Harlequins, club captain Billy Twelvetrees spoke of his disappointment that the Cherry and Whites were unable to cash in on the home side's indiscipline and lose a lead on Saturday afternoon.
Number eight Gareth Evans admitted to a collective feeling of frustration as Gloucester lost narrowly at Harlequins on Saturday, but insisted that there are plenty of positives to draw upon ahead of next Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final at home to Exeter.
Gloucester travel to the Stoop on Saturday afternoon to take on Harlequins in the Aviva Premiership. The Cherry and Whites make just two changes from last weekend's win over Connacht as they seek consistency and continuity in their play as Nick Walshe told the local media this week.
Gloucester Rugby qualified for their first European final since 2006 as they defeated the in-form Exeter Chiefs by 30 points to 19 in a thrilling semi-final at Kingsholm on Saturday evening. The club photographer caught the best of the action.
Recent meetings between these two teams have often been thrillers, and this was no exception. It went down to the final few minutes, but Gloucester produced the goods when it mattered to qualify for the European Rugby Challenge Cup Final, beating Exeter 30-19.
Supporters who are still to purchase tickets for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final at home to Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm (kick off 7:45pm) are reminded that Early Bird prices are only valid until 6:30pm on Thursday evening.