Delve headed back to Wales

Date published: March 27 2015

The Ospreys have completed the signing of former Wales number eight Gareth Delve who will arrive from Japan next season.

The 32-year-old has signed a two-year deal as he returns to Europe after 15 months spent playing for NEC Green Rockets.

It will be his first spell playing in Wales, having started his career in England, where he played for both Bath and Gloucester.

In 2011 he moved to Australia to play for new franchise the Melbourne Rebels, becoming the first Welshman to play Super Rugby in the process.

But having spent much of his career playing around the world, Delve admits he's looking forward to the opportunity to ply his trade in Wales.

"I’m really excited about this move," said Delve.

"It’s a great opportunity for me to play with a quality team that I believe is going places, while I’ll be playing in Wales for the first time as a pro. I’ve been really impressed by (head coach) Steve Tandy and (recruitment manager) Andy Lloyd when we’ve met and I’m looking forward to helping them to achieve the vision that the Ospreys have.

"There’s a strong, competitive squad of players at the Ospreys, with some great young players who have real potential alongside some genuine world class individuals. When you add some of the signings confirmed for next season, experienced people like Paul James and Brendon Leonard coming in, and Joe Bearman resigning, I think it’s a great blend."

Having grown up in Cardiff, a scholarship at Colston’s Collegiate School in Bristol took him across the Severn Bridge, where he eventually signed his first professional contract with Bath in 2001. He spent six years at the Rec before switching to local rivals Gloucester, regularly captaining the side in his three seasons in cherry and white.

He broke new ground when he signed for the newly formed Melbourne Rebels ahead of their inaugural 2011 campaign, becoming the first ever overseas player to captain an Australian Super Rugby side. Having been an influential figure in the Rebels’ first three seasons, he left Australia at the end of 2013 to sign for NEC Green Rockets in Japan.

Delve’s senior international debut came against Scotland during the 2006 Six Nations. He featured as a replacement three times during the 2008 Grand Slam success and although his final cap came in 2010, he last wore the red jersey two years later in an uncapped game against Brumbies in Wales’ tour of Australia.

Reflecting on his decision to come back to Wales, Delve said:

"I’m lucky to have played in some great places and I’ve travelled the world, but this opportunity to play in Wales with an ambitious, quality team, in front of my family, was too good to say no to.

"I can’t emphasise enough my excitement. Of all the potential moves I could have made at this point of my career, this was the one that really excited me. I’m joining the Ospreys knowing that there is a real focus on creating the right environment for success, and helping the team to achieve its full potential is a challenge I’m looking forward to."

Delve joins former Wales teammate Paul James and ex-All Black Brendon Leonard in signing for the Ospreys from next season as the region look to restock after a number of key departures in the last few seasons.

"Gareth will add a huge amount of experience to what is a young squad. He’s played in a lot of different environments, experienced different cultures, and his leadership abilities are unquestionable having captained sides throughout his career," said General Manager Andrew Millward.

"With people like Gareth, Paul James and Brendon Leonard added to the squad for next season, there will be a spine of leaders and experience running through the squad, which will be crucial to allow us to compete on all fronts.

"That depth has been missing in recent years, but the hard work done by everybody at the Ospreys in recent years to turn the business around off the field is now having a positive impact on it, allowing us to look to recruit where necessary, adding individuals with the right characteristics for our environment.

"We’ve spoken to a lot of people who have worked with him at his various clubs or come up against him, and what shines through is that he will offer us a huge amount off the field in terms of leadership and the growth of younger boys. Players like Jordan Collier, Olly Cracknell, Lloyd Evans, Rhodri Hughes and Rory Thornton will learn a lot from him, helping them to come through to really challenge the senior players over the coming season or two.

"As much as he’s here to help to develop others though, his primary role will be to compete for the shirt as much as anyone else. He was quite clear about that desire when we met, and we were quite clear that’s what we wanted from him. We could be missing as much as five international back row players at World Cup time, so to be able to call on someone of his undoubted quality, will be a real boost. 

"Competition for places in the back row throughout the season will be intense, with nobody certain of their place in the team, and that is exactly what is needed if we are going to achieve what we want as Ospreys."