Welsh 'warrior' to return home
NEWS: Veteran Welsh hooker Richard Hibbard will return, from Premiership outfit Gloucester, home at the end of the present season.
The 34-year-old - capped 38 times and a member of the British and Irish Lions Test side that beat Australia 2-1 in 2013 - is to take up a playing opportunity with the ambitious Welsh region Newport Gwent Dragons.
He joins compatriot Ross Moriarty in making the same move.
Hibbard, described by Gloucester's Director of Rugby David Humphreys as an "absolute warrior", had another year on his contract to run, but wanted to bring down the curtain on his stellar career back in his homeland.
"It's been an incredibly difficult decision," he told the Gloucester website.
"The reason it's been so tough is that I've become so attached to Gloucester during my time here.
"I've probably played some of my very best rugby in Cherry and White and I've enjoyed it so much.
"Finishing my career in Wales is important to me, though, and this opportunity has probably come a little sooner than I expected."
Hibbard said he had been impressed by the plans Dragons head coach and former Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman had in mind for the region, who have been the lowest finishing Welsh side in all but one of the last 12 seasons.
"I spoke to Bernard, who shared his plans for the Dragons and the direction he wants to take the team and I really want to be part of that," said Hibbard, who could be joined by Welsh wing great George North, who will have talks in the New Year with Jackman about a possible return from Northampton.
"I'm excited by the move back and what Bernard is building at the Dragons. Contributing to that will be my focus to get the team into a good place."
Humphreys said Hibbard had made a telling contribution to the club in his three years there including when they lifted the European Challenge Cup in 2015.
"We knew what we were getting when Hibbs joined the club - an absolute warrior - and he's more than lived up to that," said Humphreys.
"The part he's played for Gloucester over the past few seasons cannot be over-estimated."