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."
Defence Coach Jonny Bell admitted this week that the European Rugby Challenge Cup victory in Bayonne was a welcome one, stressed that Benetton Treviso will pose a tough test on Saturday at Kingsholm but that Gloucester are determined to deliver in front of their own fans.
Motu Matu'u is looking to make up for lost time this week as the Cherry and Whites head to Basque Country to take on Bayonne in the European Rugby Challenge Cup opener. The Samoan hooker made his first appearance in the jersey last weekend, and is hoping to contribute to the team this weekend.
Gloucester's attentions turn to Europe this weekend as they travel to Bayonne for their opening fixture of this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup. Forwards Coach Trevor Woodman told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will be aiming to top their pool as they've done for the past two seasons, but is well aware of how tough it is to win in France.
Although understandably disappointed at seeing victory slip away at the last minute, Ben Morgan said after the game at Exeter that there were plenty of positives that Gloucester could take from the game.
Speaking after a last-gasp try from Exeter earned the Chiefs a 27-27 draw at Sandy Park on Saturday, Charlie Sharples admitted to mixed feelings. The game saw him score a try on his 200th competitive appearance for the club, but the frustration from not closing out the win was clear.
David Humphreys was minutes away from a winning interview on Saturday afternoon, but a late try from Exeter Chiefs meant the points were shared at Sandy Park. Humphreys spoke with the local media after the 27-27 draw.
Speaking to the media ahead of Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture away at Exeter Chiefs, Director of Rugby David Humphreys reiterated that there are elements of Gloucester's game that are in good shape at present, that the performance against Bath was a step forward from Newcastle but that individual errors are costing the Cherry and Whites dear.
Centre Matt Scott, a try-scorer in Bayonne last weekend, insists that Gloucester are taking nothing for granted when they welcome Benetton Treviso to Kingsholm on Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup (kick off 3pm).