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The right time to move on: Humphreys

By Ian Callender

David Humphreys has finally broken his silence on his decision to leave Ulster to pursue a career with English Aviva Premiership outfit Gloucester.

It was June 7 when Ulster's one-time captain and former Director of Rugby stunned management colleagues, players, supporters and the media by announcing he was moving on after 22 years with his native province.

Yesterday, in an interview with BBC Points West, the 42-year-old explained the reason for his decision and its timing. As is his wont, there was no hint of emotion as he revealed that he had always known that day would come.

"I don't think it was something where I was looking to leave," he said.

"When I look back as a player there were a number of different opportunities in that time to go and play elsewhere. It's not that I ever regret not leaving, but I knew if I decided to stay in professional sport that, at some point in my future, my family and I would have to move away.

"This really was the first opportunity that has come along that I felt was a good fit for me and my family. It is a club that I'm very, very excited to be a part of."

Acknowledging the potential of the squad he has inherited, Humphreys paid tribute to his predecessor, Nigel Davies, who was sacked in May following Gloucester's ninth-place finish in the Premiership race.

"Huge credit to Nigel and Steve (Vaughan, chief executive) in terms of the squad they've put together," Humphreys said.

The Kingsholm club's new signings include a second row pair in England's Tom Palmer and Argentina's Mariano Galarza, hookers Richard Hibbard of Wales and the Lions, plus Tonga's Aleki Lutui, Welsh fly-half James Hook and 2011 World Cup-winning All Blacks tight-head John Afoa who left Ulster for Gloucester weeks ahead of Humphreys' unexpected switch.

"I think when you look at the players that have been brought in, the Gloucester squad now is a squad with huge potential and some top quality international players," Humphreys said.

"I think when you add that to the mix of coaches that are coming in and the quality that they've had at different levels, I hope it will be a good mix."

With Humphreys continuing in the same Director of Rugby role as was the case while he was with Ulster, Australian Laurie Fisher has been recruited as head coach answerable to him.

John Muggleton (defence), Nick Walshe (backs/attack) and Trevor Woodman (scrum) have been enlisted since Humphreys' arrival, too, which means an all-new coaching staff.

It also underlines the West Country club's determination to reassert themselves among English rugby's elite.

However, with Gloucester having splashed out so much money this summer, the pressure on Humphreys to justify the outlay will be considerable from the off.

First up is a trip to Franklin's Gardens, home of Northampton Saints, the defending champions, on September 5.

Humphreys assessment of what lies ahead was: "The biggest challenge for us all is expectation – not just the expectation amongst the players, who are very ambitious and want to be successful, not just amongst the coaching team, but also among the wider supporters and the club.

"History has shown it is very, very difficult to put together a team that can immediately win. History has shown it takes time to build a team and get to know the players."

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