Hibbard joins Wales exodus & signs for Gloucester

British and Irish Lions hooker Richard Hibbard has joined the exodus of Welsh players leaving for England and has signed to play next season for English Premiership side Gloucester from the Ospreys.

The 30-year-old Welshman follows in the footsteps of New Zealand prop John Afoa, who is also due to link up with Gloucester next season after agreeing to leave Ulster.

“As with the recent confirmation of John Afoa’s signing, Richard agreeing to join Gloucester Rugby next season is fantastic news, ” Gloucester director of rugby Nigel Davies told the club website.

“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. “

Hibbard made his Wales debut in 2006 and played four times in their successful Six Nations campaign earlier this year before featuring in all three Tests of the Lions’ triumphant tour of Australia.

He expressed sadness about leaving Ospreys, but said he was excited about the challenge awaiting him at the Kingsholm Stadium.

“It was always going to be a tough decision to leave my home area, as I’m currently in my 10th successive season at the Ospreys, which is my local region and where I was born, ” he said.

“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. “

Hibbard’s departure adds to the exodus of Wales players leaving Welsh clubs in recent years.

Key players Mike Phillips, Jamie Roberts, Dan Lydiate, Luke Charteris, James Hook and Lee Byrne all currently play in France, with Jonathan Davies and Ian Evans set to join them in the Top 14 next season.

George North, Paul James and Craig Mitchell, meanwhile, play in the English Premiership, while lock Bradley Davies has been linked with a move to Wasps from Cardiff Blues.

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