Gloucester Rugby have boosted their midfield ranks for the 2009-10 season with the signing of Samoan international Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu.
Fuimaono-Sapolu has spent the past three and a half seasons at Bath Rugby. He originally arrived at the Rec in January 2006 on a short term deal but quickly impressed and was offered a longer term contract.
Eliota, 29 in October, is a qualified solicitor and represented New Zealand Universities whilst studying in Auckland. He made his international debut against Scotland in 2005 and caught the eye with exceptional performances against England and Argentina.
He usually plays at outside centre but can also play as a fly-half and started all Samoa's matches in the 2007 Rugby World Cup in the number ten shirt including a Man of the Match performance against the USA.
Eliota is a very skilful player with ball in hand, but also has a robust edge to his game and will bring some physicality to the Gloucester midfield according to Head Coach Dean Ryan:
"Eliota is going to be a valuable addition to the Gloucester Rugby squad. He is an international class centre with valuable experience of playing in the Guinness Premiership."
"We've been looking to increase our physicality across the team and Eliota will bring that to the side. But, he's also possesses good speed and has quick hands so brings other things to the table."
Eliota revealed that he is looking forward to playing in front of the Gloucester crowd at Kingsholm:
"I've played at Kingsholm as a visiting player and it's a great atmosphere. I'm really looking forward to playing in front of that support every other week."
"I've enjoyed my time at Bath but it's a fantastic set up at Gloucester and I can't wait for the new season to start."
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
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.
On a tough evening at Kingsholm, Gloucester could escape neither a suffocating Bath defence, nor the whistle of referee Greg Garner as six penalties and a penalty try paved the way to a 39-16 win for the visitors.
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).