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."
Previewing Friday evening's local derby at Bristol, Interim Head Coach Jonny Bell told the local media that Gloucester's preparations have gone well and that the whole squad is united in trying to finish the season on a high.
Speaking to GRTV this week, Acting Head Coach Jonny Bell spoke of his pleasure in the efforts and intensity in training from the squad after a tricky few weeks. The team were preparing for big games with Bristol and Cardiff in coming weeks.
Willi Heinz was understandably and visibly disappointed when he spoke to GRTV after the 27-30 home defeat to Harlequins, apologising to the home support as the game slipped away after seemingly having the game under control.
Speaking to the local media this week, Scottish centre Matt Scott spoke of the squad's determination to put in a big home performance against Harlequins, with vital points up for grabs in the hunt for a Top Six spot this Saturday (KO 3pm)
Looking ahead to Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture at home to Harlequins (kick off 3pm), Head Coach Laurie Fisher told the local media that Gloucester will need to be on top of their game in a match which has big implications in terms of top six ambitions.
A big few days for the Gloucester-Hartpury Women side. First came the news that the team will compete in Women's Super Rugby next season, and on Saturday the team will play Worcester Ladies IIs at Kingsholm. Centre Hannah Jones and wing Michelle Ruddock spoke to GRTV this week to reflect on events.
Missing so many starters, and up against a team fighting for their Premiership existence, Gloucester did what had to be done at Ashton Gate on Friday evening battling their way to a 32-14 Aviva Premiership win over Bristol Rugby.