GLOUCESTER Rugby are delighted to confirm the signing of tough tackling Fijian back-row forward Akapusi Qera for next season.
The 23-year-old, capped six times by his country since his debut in 2005, has been a revelation this season for Pertemps Bees in National Division One, scoring 16 tries from his preferred position of openside.
His achievements both for Fiji and in England have not gone unrecognised back in his homeland where he was named Rugby Player of the Year in January, and was recently runner-up (behind golfer Vijay Singh) in the country's Sportsman of the Year awards.
"In Akapusi I think we have unearthed someone who can have a real impact on the Guinness Premiership," said Gloucester head coach Dean Ryan.
"The English First Division is a tough league for someone to come over and make a name for themselves but Q has played nearly every game for the Bees and his try-scoring ratio for a forward is exceptional.
"As you would expect from someone who is 6ft 4in and weighs in at over 100 kilos he offers a big physical presence around the park, but even allowing for his size, his athleticism and strength in contact is something else.
"Hopefully he can continue his good form through the summer and play a key role for Fiji at the World Cup. After that we can't wait to get him back to Kingsholm as soon as possible so he can push for a place in the Gloucester side."
Having been earmarked as one of the country's top young players, Qera was promoted from the Fiji under-21s to make his senior international debut in July 2005 against Samoa, following it up with appearances against Tonga and Portugal in the same season.
In 2006 he was top scorer for the Fiji Warriors in the IRB Pacific Cup - with four tries in six matches - and also made a further three Test appearances for his country, out-sprinting the Japan back-line to score a remarkable length-of-the-field effort to seal victory in Osaka last July.
"It's a huge honour to be offered a contract by Gloucester and I'm determined to work hard and force my way into contention for selection," Qera told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk.
"I owe everyone at Pertemps Bees a big thanks for giving me the opportunity to get started in England, but when Gloucester offered to meet with me everyone said it would be the ideal place to go next.
"It was good to speak with Dean [Ryan] and see the training ground and Kingsholm - the quality of facilities and support is everything you would expect for a team that is top of the Premiership. I know that the style of rugby Gloucester play will suit my game, and now I can't wait to do as well as I can for Fiji this summer at the World Cup then get to work at my new club."
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
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.
On a tough evening at Kingsholm, Gloucester could escape neither a suffocating Bath defence, nor the whistle of referee Greg Garner as six penalties and a penalty try paved the way to a 39-16 win for the visitors.
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).