RUGBY: All Black tight head prop John Afoa signs for Gloucester

ALL BLACK World Cup winner John Afoa will be playing for Gloucester at Kingsholm next season.

The marquee signing of the vastly experienced tight head prop follows the announcement that Gloucester has already successfully retained a number of its key international class players including Sione Kalamafoni, Rob Cook, Henry Trinder and Billy Twelvetrees for next season.

Director of rugby Nigel Davies explained the importance of building on the club's traditional core values as a forward pack, saying: "This signing signals a statement of intent in terms of our playing philosophy at Gloucester.

"Thanks to the hard work off the field and our loyal support at Gloucester, we are in a strong position as a club to be able to invest in the right players to ensure we meet our goals and ambitions.

"Balancing our squad and building real depth in key areas is something we have been working hard on behind the scenes for months, and John's signing is a key element in that process.

"He had several good options in France, so we've had to work hard to bring him to Gloucester. It's a real statement of where we're hoping to go. A player of John's stature can have a massive impact upon a relatively young pack of forwards and on our rugby environment in general."

The 30-year-old, who has played 36 Tests for New Zealand, has spent the past two seasons with Ulster, who he joined following the conclusion of Rugby World Cup 2011.

He enjoyed a fine debut season in Ireland as he helped Ulster reach the Heineken Cup final. He was also a key member of the team that reached the Heineken Cup quarter-final in 2013 and the RaboDirect PRO12 Final in the same year.

He made his Auckland debut at the age of 18, and represented New Zealand at U16 and U21 levels before earning his first cap for the All Blacks against Ireland in November, 2005.

Afoa said: "It's a very important move for me and for my family, and that was a big factor in my final decision. I had to consider them as well as the rugby side of things, and Gloucester was the right fit on all those fronts.

"Gloucester have got a good team in place already, but are now looking to try and take things up a level and that's a really exciting prospect, similar to the challenge that I took on when I came to Ulster a couple of years ago.

"I've heard that the Gloucester fans appreciate their forward play, and I'm looking forward to that. I know that they already possess some really exciting backs, so I'll be aiming to add to the tight five effort and help create a platform for those guys to play their game.

"Everyone tells me that Kingsholm is a fantastic stadium to play at and I had a taste of it last year with the Barbarians. I spent some time then with Mike Tindall so I feel I know a lot about the place already.

"And I've spoken to Jimmy (Cowan) quite a lot as we go back a long way. He only had good things to say about the club and what a great place it is to play rugby.

"It's something new, a fresh challenge in a new league taking on new opponents and that's going to be good for me.

"There are quite a few Kiwis already playing in the Premiership, so it's going to be a great experience.”

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