CHERRY and Whites fan Matt Kvesic is 'one of the best opensides around' – and his two-year Kingsholm deal is a huge statement of intent, believes Nigel Davies.
Hailing 20-year-old Kvesic as one of English rugby's brightest rising stars, Gloucester boss Davies expects him to have a big impact when he makes the summer switch from Worcester Warriors.
The Devon-raised flanker is a lifelong Gloucester supporter – his father attended Cheltenham's Dean Close school.
Former Worcester academy boss Andrew Stanley helped nurture Kvesic through the Warriors ranks.
Now the Cherry and Whites' academy manager, the ex-Gloucester star played a pivotal role in convincing Kvesic to choose Kingsholm.
Rugby director Davies explained: "We're very pleased that we've signed Matt, I think whichever team he's played for he's been very influential.
"He can turn games on his actions – as an out-an-out seven he's one of the best out there.
"He's a young boy who is one of the rising stars of English rugby if you like, and for us to have been able to sign him is a big statement of intent by Gloucester.
"And by him too, because he thinks he's coming to a club that can help further his career, and we firmly believe we can do that and he can be part of something that evolves here over the next couple of years.
"For him to have played so many games at his age says a lot about him.
"When you look at his contribution it's clear why he does influence games: he can turn over ball, his continuity play is very good, and in his own right he's a good ball-player and a very good rugby player.
"He's very influential but he's a leader as well, and in successful teams you need leaders on the park.
"He's worked with Stan in the past, and Stan was able to be quite influential in that and was able to tell him quite clearly what is going on here.
"He has a lot of respect and admiration for Stan, so that definitely had an impact.
"He's one of the most exciting young talents around at the moment, so for us to have captured him says a lot about where Gloucester are and where we are going."
Born in Iserlohn, Germany while his father served in the Army, Kvesic attended Blundell's School in Tiverton, representing Devon and South West Schools.
The combative loose forward played alongside future Gloucester team-mates Ryan Mills and Koree Britton, and also Guy Armitage, on the way to representing England Under-16s in 2008.
Though he was quickly affiliated to Worcester by his second year of senior school, Kvesic always supported Gloucester thanks to family ties.
And Davies said that has definitely helped the Cherry and Whites beat the likes of Bath and Leicester to his signature.
Davies continued: "He supported Gloucester as a young boy, he used to stand in The Shed with his father.
"That had a big pull, so to have somebody of that quality and potential coming here, off the back of supporting the club, that means a lot.
"He will be entrenched in Gloucester, and what it means to play for Gloucester, because he's seen it from a young age.
"He's a leader, a natural leader, and that's big.
"The more players we have with that quality then the more effective and efficient the team's going to be.
"He could definitely see a huge ambition within Gloucester."
Gloucester will boast four openside flankers next season, with Kvesic joining Andy Hazell, Matt Cox and Akapusi Qera.
Davies sees room for all four – especially as Cox and Qera can comfortably move across the back-row.
Hazell is among a nucleus of Gloucester stars to have agreed a new contract for next term, though no official announcements have been made.
Davies said 34-year-old Hazell remains integral to his plans.
He said: "Andy is a great seven in his own right, he brings a different dynamic and he's a Gloucester boy through and through.
"I think it's very important we hold on to Andy as well. He's a great character to have around and he gives everything he's got when he plays.
"He lives and breathes Gloucester and he's able to put that across to the other players in the squad as well.
"And Matt Cox is still developing. He can play six and seven, he's a very aggressive rugby player, but it gives us a lot of options and balance in what is a crucial area of the game these days.
"Most tries are scored from turnovers now, so if you've got players with the ability to do that then that significantly impacts games.
"Akapusi Qera is another great option for us at seven – but he can play anywhere across the back-row to a very high standard as well.
"Sometimes it's not so much about who is playing where but the balance of the back-row, what they are able to do and how they are able to contribute.
"If you get the balance right then they all contribute evenly, that can be very effective.
"There's a place for everybody.
"Matt Kvesic is still a young developing player and we won't put too much pressure on him, but he is the future, there's no doubt about that. But he's still already got a lot of experience too."