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."
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.
After a series of contract announcements last week, hooker Richard Hibbard is the latest Gloucester Rugby player to commit to a new contract at the club and told GRTV how much he enjoys playing in the Cherry and White of Gloucester.
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.