Gloucester sign New Zealand prop John Afoa from Ulster
Gloucester have confirmed that John Afoa has signed a long-term contract from next season.
Last Updated: 06/12/13 11:05am
The All Blacks prop will leave Ulster at the end of the current campaign and join the Cherry and Whites on a long-term deal after rejecting lucrative offers from French clubs.
The New Zealand Rugby Union were also keen for the 30-year-old to go back to his homeland after his family returned last year having been unable to settle in Northern Ireland.
Afoa had been widely expected to relocate to Auckland to fight for a place in the New Zealand World Cup squad, but rugby director Nigel Davies has revealed that the tighthead will aim to reunite with his wife and children in Gloucester next season.
"His family played a big part in it all," said Davies. "One of the problems he's had at Ulster is that his family didn't really settle there and have gone home, so that's put a bit of pressure on him, understandably.
"So that was fundamental in the decision-making process and, if we're being frank, he could have gone to France for more money.
"It had to be right for him and his family. He feels his family can settle here. John sees Gloucester in a similar position to where Ulster were a few years ago.
"Ulster have had a big investment programme over the last three to four years, recruiting real quality players, and that's impacted on their performances.
"He can see parallels with the potential there was at Ulster as there is now at Gloucester.
"He wants to bring his family across from New Zealand and he can see them settling for the next few years in Gloucestershire.
"Jimmy Cowan met with him and spoke candidly about life at Gloucester, (co-owner) Ryan Walkinshaw and other board members were involved in selling the club to him too."
Davies added that Afoa's capture signals a return to heftier squad investment from the Cherry and Whites, with Ospreys hooker Richard Hibbard tipped to pack down with Afoa next season.
He said: "It is absolutely a statement of intent. It signifies a clear change in direction in terms of strategy for the team. The side has gone a particular way for the last four or five years in terms of recruitment and the rugby it wants to play.
"And I think what's been evident is that particularly in the Aviva Premiership, your ability to compete up front is your most important facet really.
"We just need to bring that steely forward pack edge back to Kingsholm, which is what we've traditionally been known for.
"I think Kingsholm lends itself particularly well to a forward pack dominant on the front foot, and that's what we need to get back to. This is part of that process.
"We've got a reasonably young pack of forwards, so to bring some front-five players in of this experience and quality will add to what they currently are as well as what they do as individuals too."