Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Hibbard heads to Gloucester

Latest rugby union news

Richard Hibbard will help Gloucester take a "major step" towards building a "hard-nosed pack", according to Nigel Davies.

Gloucester have confirmed their capture of British Lions and Ospreys hooker Hibbard, on a long-term contract to start next season.

The Kingsholm club have secured the 30-year-old's services for next term, another coup to go along with signing Ulster's All Blacks prop John Afoa.

Hibbard's impending departure from the Ospreys once again highlights the increasing talent drain from Wales.

At least 12 potential frontline Wales stars will ply their trade outside their homeland next season, and that number is almost certain to rise still further.

Rugby director Davies admits he must restore Gloucester's front-five ferocity, and is confident his twin front-row captures will boost his pack immeasurably next season.

Davies said: "We have now made a clear statement in terms of the quality of players we want here.

"In terms of building a really hard-nosed pack, it's another major step forward.

"Everybody at the club has worked hard to get these two top front-row players at the club and it's fantastic.

"I think any team in Europe would have wanted both these players."

Former Wales centre Davies believes 26-cap hooker Hibbard's grit in the tight and set-piece exchanges will mark him out as a big Aviva Premiership hit next term.

The ex-Scarlets boss admitted he will also happily see Hibbard turn out at international level during his Kingsholm tenure.

Davies said: "He's very abrasive, without a shadow of a doubt.

"He's a very good scrummager and he works hard around the park.

"That abrasive edge will definitely add a dimension to us.

"Part of that (Hibbard's Gloucester career) will include internationals; that's fine, and strength in depth is key for us, and we'll look to build on that."

The Welsh regions can do little to stop their top talent heading for more lucrative pastures.

The Welsh Rugby Union have dangled the carrot of funds to help offset this very problem, but on the proviso the regions sign a new agreement to stay within the current set-up of the RaboDirect Pro12 and union control.

The four regions are stalling, exploring the possibility of forming a breakaway Anglo-Welsh league with the Aviva Premiership clubs who are seeking to fill the void from their potential European competition exclusion next season.

This uncertainty has left Wales and Lions captain Sam Warburton in limbo.

The flanker has been clear on his desire to stay with Cardiff Blues, but is another who could well end up leaving Wales next summer.

Ospreys duo Alun Wyn Jones and Adam Jones are also out of contract in the summer and highly coveted across Europe.

Scarlets fly-half Rhys Priestland and Blues lock Bradley Davies have been linked with moves out of Wales, while Leigh Halfpenny has been heavily touted as heading to reigning Heineken Cup champions Toulon.

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