Gareth Cooper is thrilled at his move to Gloucester
GARETH COOPER has described his move to Gloucester as 'the opportunity of a life-time' and is determined to make his Kingsholm switch a success.
The Wales scrum-half has signed a two-year deal with the Guinness Premiership club and will compete for the number nine shirt next season with Scotland's Rory Lawson and Mike Prendergast, the Irishman recently signed from Bourgoin.
Cooper, 27, has been capped 30 times so far by his country and will join Dean Ryan's side from the Newport-Gwent Dragons in the summer.
"When you come from Wales there are certain rugby clubs in England that you immediately associate with history, pride and tradition and Gloucester is one of the biggest," Cooper told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk.
"There is nothing half-hearted about what they are trying to achieve in the Guinness Premiership and Heineken Cup. Their coaching staff are amazingly driven, the squad that is being assembled is one of the best in Europe, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to be involved with such a progressive and talented set-up.
"This is the opportunity of a life-time for me and Dean Ryan's ambition to make Gloucester the dominant force in club rugby is something I want to be part of.
"I know a lot of people say it, but when you see the training facilities at Hartpury College and understand the direction in which the club is heading, my mind was made up - I think this will be a fantastic move."
Cooper was born in Bridgend and started his rugby career at Pencoed, a club which has also produced Wales legends Scott Gibbs and Gareth Thomas. He was at Bath for four seasons alongside future Gloucester team-mates Mike Tindall and Iain Balshaw, but returned to Wales in 2003 to play for the Celtic Warriors and more recently the Newport Gwent Dragons.
Having been capped at every age-group level, Cooper made his senior Wales debut in the 2001 6 Nations Championship against Italy in Rome, scoring a try after just eight minutes. He was Steve Hansen's first choice number nine for the 2003 World Cup and also toured New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions in 2005.
Speaking about the arrival of Cooper, Gloucester's head coach Dean Ryan added: "Gareth has all the qualities you would associate with an international number nine and his ability to break the line can be devastating to the opposition.
"The signings announced so far and those still to come show the competitive depth we are creating right throughout the squad. I'm really pleased we have been able to recruit Gareth and am expecting big things from him next season."
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.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
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).