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."
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.
Speaking to GRTV after the final whistle, Tom Palmer praised the Cherry and Whites concentration and desire to hold on to a narrow 14-7 victory. The second row topped the tackle charts with 19 as he led the home team's resistance.
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.
The Gloucester Wheelchair Rugby team travelled to Fenton Manor Complex, Stoke on Trent last Saturday to take part in the final round of the GBWR Super Series of the season, knowing just one win would be enough to crown them Division 3 Champions.