Rugby: Gloucester win race to sign Wales star Hibbard

WALES and British and Irish Lions hooker Richard Hibbard will be joining Gloucester next season.

Following the recent announcement that All Black World Cup winning prop John Afoa would be moving to Kingsholm next season, Hibbard's signing is another huge indication of the club's ambitions and direction moving forward.

The Neath-born player played for Taibach, Aberavon and Swansea before joining the Ospreys.

He made his senior Welsh debut against Argentina in 2006 and scored his first international try against Scotland at Murrayfield in the RBS 6 Nations in 2013.

Hibbard played four times in the 2013 Six Nations as Wales retained the championship and then featured in all three Tests for the Lions in Australia this summer, starting the decisive third test.

In the recent autumn internationals, he was named as Wales' Dove Men+Care Man of the Series and has now won 26 caps for his country.

Hibbard's arrival will further boost the depth of Gloucester's front five as director of rugby Nigel Davies assembles a squad capable of upholding Gloucester's traditions for powerful forward play combined with real talent in an incisive back line.

Davies said: "As with the recent confirmation of John Afoa's signing, Richard agreeing to join Gloucester Rugby next season is fantastic news. Balancing the squad, and adding depth in key areas has been a key objective for us, and this news is another part of that process.

"It shows where we're heading as a club. We're building a team armed not just with power up front, but also the ability behind the scrum to play a rounded and complete game.

"Richard is arguably one of the top hookers in world rugby. Clubs all around the world have been interested in signing him, so it's significant that we've been able to convince him that Gloucester is the right place for him to play his rugby.

"And, once again, it's a testimony to the hard work and commitment of everyone at the club. We're able to invest significantly in our team thanks to the backing of our board, the continued financial success of Gloucester Rugby and the significant investment made by our partners, sponsors and supporters.”

Hibbard admitted that he's excited by the challenge of testing himself in a new environment but that he remains totally committed to the Ospreys cause.

"It was always going to be a tough decision to leave my home area, as I'm currently in my tenth successive season at the Ospreys, which is my local region and where I was born.

"That said, I'm absolutely delighted to be joining a rugby club such as Gloucester, based in the heart of the local community, with such a tradition and with amazing support.

"I'm a great believer in loyalty and community and I'd like to place on record formally, my great thanks to the Ospreys management, coaches, players and fans for supporting me so well throughout my career.

"I'm an Ospreys fan, and always will be. I'll just be supporting them from a distance. I wish them well in the future.

"I now look forward to this next exciting chapter in my life, and indeed that of my young family, and hope to help Gloucester Rugby return to the top of the English and British game.”

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