Lovell Rugby chats to... Richard Hibbard

March 28, 2018

After 4 years of putting his body on the line for the Cherry and Whites , it’s safe to say that Richard ‘Thor’ Hibbard is a fans favourite amongst the Kingsholm faithful.

He may have already signed on the dotted line to join the Bernard Jackson’s Dragons for the 2018/19 season, but the British & Irish Lion hooker is fully committed to finishing his time at Gloucester on a high. We caught up with the big man to talk about the reasons behind the move, his time at Gloucester and get his thoughts on the Wales’ 6 Nations campaign.

You are off to the Dragons at the end of the season. Are you excited for your move back to Wales?

To be honest, when I left Wales I never thought I would go back! I’ve loved every minute at Gloucester and with a year left on my contract, I just couldn’t see myself leaving. But when the opportunity came up, you know what it’s like when there’s mention of your home and going back, you tend to listen. I spoke to Bernard Jackson about his ambitions, goals and where he wants to take his team really got me excited.

Have you been keeping an eye on their results since you’ve signed?

Yes I have. I’ve watched a couple of games on the TV and also got a chance to go down to watch one of the games. I know it’s a transition period for the club at the moment, but it’s a great chance for them to get a look at the players that are staying and also the young guys coming through.

Bernard Jackson believes that the Dragons can be the strongest team in Wales within 5 years, do you think this is realistic?

Being at Gloucester and knowing how big of a change we went through here, I know it’s not going to be easy; putting a new squad together, bringing in new coaches and a whole new team, these things take time to settle and gel but I’m excited to join this movement with all these plans in place. It’s going to take time to implement new game-plans and get everyone playing for each other so it’s not going to come over night, but I definitely think that we could be a very strong region. The form of some of the other bigger regions haven’t been great over the past couple of seasons so I think that we can grow just as fast as the other regions.

“I completely underestimated the strength of the Premiership and when I first came in it was a little bit of a shock to the system.”

You’ve been with Gloucester since the 2014/15 season. Have you enjoyed your time in the Premiership?

I have absolutely loved it! If I’m totally honest, I completely underestimated the strength of the Premiership and when I first came in it was a little bit of a shock to the system. I had mates that had played in the league and they said that it was tough, but I always used to laugh it off – I was wrong as it is one of the toughest leagues around. It’s relentless; you’ve got the top 4 that are fighting to stay up there, you have the middle 4 that are fighting to get into that top 4 and you’ve got your bottom 4 that are doing everything they can to avoid relegation, so every team is playing for something. There are no easy games either, you have to be at the top of your game every week, there is no room for complacency as you often see teams beating a top side one week and then losing to a team towards the bottom end of the table the next. As tough as it is, I have really enjoyed it because of that challenge and because every week is a big game, and getting to test myself against some of the world’s best players has been great.

Do you have any goals for the rest of the season with the Cherry and Whites?

We’re currently sitting in 6th and we’ve got a quarter-final in Connacht this weekend, so there a couple of big opportunities for us to end the season strongly. Although we have a tough run in the league to come, we have a chance to climb and hopefully grab a top 4 spot. On to of this there’s a chance to host a European semi-final so there is still a lot to get excited about here at Gloucester. We are nowhere near being the finished article and know we can improve week to week. The difference between last season and this season is that we are managing to nick those games at the death, whereas last year we were losing those games in the last 10 minutes. Hopefully we can keep this going and we will see where we end up.

” It’s a real tight community in Gloucester and I will miss that. “

What will you miss most about playing/living in England?

I will obviously miss the boys, but will definitely miss the Gloucester faithful! Gloucester have such great supporters; from the A league, to friendly games, to European games on a Thursday night, they will always be there supporting the guys. They’re a very friendly bunch too; people are always greeting me around town and stopping to have a chat which I think is amazing. It’s a real tight community in Gloucester and I will miss that. To be fair, my body won’t miss the challenge of the league, but I will miss the challenges because as a forward I love getting battered.

Wales were runners-up in this years’ 6 Nations. Did you watch any of the games and were you impressed with their campaign?

I watched it and absolutely loved it from start to finish. What I loved most was that due to the injuries people thought they were putting out a ‘weak’ team and had written off them. For the boys to go out and do what they did against a favoured Scotland team in week one was impressive. The England game could have easily swung our way and the Ireland game was the only real slip for us. You’ve got to give credit to the guys that have come in; I don’t think many would’ve picked that back row coming into a 6 Nations, but they were outstanding and in my opinion have now earned those Wales jerseys with the way they have played during the campaign. It will be down to the boys coming back in to up their game to try and get them back because those boys put in one hell of a shift! In the backs, I really liked that we had three #10’s over the course of the campaign and they all brought something different to the table, which just shows that even with all the injuries we still have strength in depth which will be very important in the build-up to a Rugby World Cup. When a few of the guys come back in, there are going to be a lot of people fighting for shirts which will only make the team and the desire within it to grow stronger.

Lastly and most importantly, we know you are a big superhero fan. If you could pick a superhero to be either side of you in the scrum, which two would you pick and why?

That’s easy as I’ve thought about this many times! I would have ‘Hulk’ at loosehead as he’s a big boy and he will be superb around the park. Then I’d have ‘The Thing’ at tighthead because I’ve played with a lot of props that looks like him. And obviously I would be in the middle as Thor so Hulk, Thor and The Thing would be my front row.

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