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."
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.
A try scorer in the 36-18 Aviva Premiership win over Wasps at Kingsholm on Saturday, Charlie Sharples admitted that Gloucester would enjoy the moment but can't get too carried away. The team got what they deserved but the winger wants these performances to be more frequent.
England Head Coach Eddie Jones has made two changes to his side to play Australia in Saturday's final match of the Old Mutual Wealth Series at Twickenham Stadium (kick-off 2.30pm, live on Sky Sports 2). Jonny May lines up on the left wing.