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Page last updated at 08:43 GMT, Sunday, 28 March 2010 09:43 UK

Melbourne Rebels confirm Gareth Delve signing

Gareth Delve
Number eight Gareth Delve has won 11 international caps for Wales

Wales number eight Gareth Delve is to join new franchise Melbourne Rebels for their debut Super 15 campaign.

Melbourne have announced the Gloucester captain's signing on a two-year deal and he will join England fly-half Danny Cipriani in Australia next season.

"I am delighted to join the Melbourne Rebels for their entrance into Super Rugby in 2011," said the 27-year-old.

Delve, who rejected a Cardiff Blues offer, will leave for Australia in September for a February season start.

The Cardiff-born forward is set to become the first Welshman to play in the 'Super Rugby' domestic competition that features the top franchises from New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.

"The opportunity to test myself alongside the best players in world rugby, in a competition I have grown up admiring, was one I couldn't refuse," he admits.

"It has been an extremely difficult decision to make and I've weighed up my decision a million times.

"At times the Cardiff option was fantastic. I met the guys and saw the facilities and in many ways it was perfect for me.

"Also I had the opportunity to be available for the Welsh set-up and be a part of the training days - that was a huge carrot.

"But the reason the Melbourne option came to the fore is that in terms of opportunities that may come along in my career, this was one I had to take now or miss out on forever.

"I've always been someone who likes to take a chance, test myself in different environments so, in many ways, this is the bigger challenge and a chance I to progress as a player.

Gareth is exactly the sort of player and mentor we're after. He's a very good ball player who will certainly fit in well with the team

Melbourne Rebels head coach Rod Macqueen

But Delve did concede that staying at his current club Gloucester "were not an option."

"In January we tried to negotiate things at Gloucester," Delve told BBC Sport.

"But there wasn't a huge amount of flexibility and it was a sad decision and it disappointing that they were not an option.

"I had two fantastic opportunities and Melbourne was the one that was a once in a career decision.

"It is not for the money. It is the last factor in my reason to go out there. It is a good offer and have the opportunity to experience a fantastic place to make too many cutbacks.

"I always thought with the way Australian and New Zealand was funded, I thought I might have to take a cut to go over there but luckily that hasn't been in the case.

"But I've never been motivated by money in my career."

And Delve, who qualifies to play for England on residency grounds, cites his international allegiance as proof.

"My Welsh opportunity means a huge amount to me and chose not to play for England when they were being paid ten times more than Wales.

"It has never been about money and profile, it is about testing yourself and achieving things that other people haven't.

"A huge carrot for me is to be the first Welshman to play in the Super 15 and very few British players have gone over and achieved that.

"So the biggest carrot beyond the lifestyle and everything else is trying to make a success of myself over there and achieve a huge ambition."

Delve made his Wales debut against Scotland in the 2006 Six Nations but the 6ft 3in, 18st 2lb powerhouse's career has been hampered by a series of knee injuries.

But the 2008 Grand Slam winner won his first Wales Six Nations start in their defeat in Ireland earlier this month.

Delve confirmed his move to Australia after skippering Gloucester to a 19-0 victory over Leeds.

"Having made this decision, my entire focus will remain on helping Gloucester Rugby to achieve the success that it so richly deserves," Delve said.

"It's a privilege to captain such a great club and such a fantastic group of guys and I will continue to be totally committed to the club for the remainder of the season."

Delve's decision to move to Melbourne will cast doubt over his Welsh international career as the Super 15 rugby season goes head-to-head with the Six Nations.

But Rebels head coach Rod Maqueen told BBC Sport: "I would hope he still has the opportunity to play for Wales if needed.

"He would have an opportunity at some stage, if he is playing well enough, that Wales might look at him for the 2011 Rugby World Cup but that is up to the Welsh Rugby Union.

"However, we would encourage him to play for his country again."

Melbourne are targeting big names in their rookie season and the new franchise have also reportedly been linked with former Australia captain Stirling Mortlock.

But Macqueen - who inspired Australia to 1999 Rugby World Cup triumph in Wales - was pleased to seal the Delve deal.

"We've been talking to Gareth for a while now," he confirmed.

"And Gareth is exactly the sort of player and mentor we're after.

"He's a very good ball player who will certainly fit in well with the team."

Delve conceded working with Melbourne's inaugural coach Macqueen, one of Australia's most successful coaches, was a key factor in his decision to go Down Under.

"For Rod Macqueen to come out of retirement, this must be something special," said Delve.

"The chance to be involved with the building of a club from the ground up has great appeal. I'm looking forward to it immensely."

Delve is also keen to reconnect Rebels forwards coach Mark Bakewell, who coached the Welshman in his final year at Bath in 2007.

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see also
Delve ready to decide on future
18 Mar 10 |  Welsh
Delve ponders Australia or Wales
08 Mar 10 |  Welsh
Cipriani agrees Melbourne switch
19 Feb 10 |  London Wasps
Ambitious Delve looking to future
09 Oct 09 |  Rugby Union
Injured Delve moves to Gloucester
30 Mar 07 |  Gloucester
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
Coming up next on Scrum V...
03 Nov 08 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales

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