The Ospreys are delighted to confirm that Welsh international Richard Hibbard has become the latest player to commit his long-term future to the region.
The 24-year old hooker, who is on target for a late September return to action after undergoing minor surgery to remove loose cartilage in his right shoulder last month, has signed a new four year contract that will keep him at the Liberty Stadium until the end of the 2011/12 season.
Since making his Ospreys debut as a youngster in a 13-9 defeat to Munster at Musgrave Park in December 2004, Hibbard has gone on to make a total of 53 appearances for the region. The 2007/08 season saw him really establish himself as one of Wales' leading hookers, making 26 Ospreys appearances, including a start at Twickenham in the EDF Energy Cup Final victory over Leicester Tigers. His one try to date in Ospreys colours also came last season, when he touched down in the closing stages of the 32-15 win over Gloucester in the Heineken Cup.
His consistency over the course of the season so him being rewarded with a call-up for the Welsh summer tour to South Africa, where he made his first international start in the second test, taking his total appearances for Wales to six having also been capped on the two previous summer tours, to Argentina and Australia.
Speaking today after signing his new contract, Richard Hibbard said:
"I'm obviously pleased to have got this sorted, the offer of a four year contract is an indication of the Ospreys commitment and belief in my ability and I'm happy to have a chance to repay that faith over the next few seasons. There's a great atmosphere in the squad at the moment, everybody is really excited about our prospects for the new season and I'm no different.
Last season was a good one for me, but I realise that I'm going to have to work hard if I want to build on it. My immediate target is to nail down a regular starting place but I'm aware that there's real competition for the number two shirt. The rivalry with Huw Bennett is intense, we've got an excellent relationship where we understand that we are after the same shirt and that drives us both on, and there is also Ed Shervington to consider as well. It's good to have competition for places, I think it helps to improve performance levels when players know that they can't take their place for granted and that will benefit the Ospreys and Wales in the long run."
Ospreys Coach Jonathan Humphreys commented:
"This is great news for the Ospreys. We believe that Richard has the potential to become one of the best hookers in world rugby and are delighted that he sees his long-term future with the Ospreys. He is a highly motivated individual who has a strong desire to be a success, and the improvements in his game over the last twelve months are clear.
The next couple of years will be crucial for Richard, who is very ambitious and wants to be the best at everything he does. It's fantastic for us that he sees the Ospreys as being the right vehicle for him to achieve his aims. He is a local boy from Port Talbot who is proud to play for his home region, and he follows on from a number of other players brought up within area who have recently signed new contracts with the Ospreys, providing real evidence of our long-term commitment to developing young, local talent."
Richard Hibbard is the 15th Ospreys player to have signed a new deal this year, following on from Gavin Henson, Jonathan Thomas, Shane Williams, Lee Byrne, Paul James, Andrew Bishop and Huw Bennett, Filo Tiatia, Cai Griffiths, Ben Lewis, Ed Shervington, Leigh Bevan, Gareth Owen and Rhys Webb.