Gloucester Rugby target lock James Hudson from Newcastle Falcons
JAMES Hudson is now Gloucester's top target to fill the vacant second-row berth at Gloucester next season.
The Cherry and Whites are poised to make a bid for the Newcastle Falcons lineout specialist, after Gloucester could not agree a deal for Toulon's Nick Kennedy.
Rival clubs are not allowed to approach Championship players until they have three months left on their contract.
So Gloucester must either seek Newcastle's permission to speak to Hudson or wait until March 1 to progress their interest.
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Gloucester pressed hard to recruit ex-London Irish lock Kennedy, after missing out on England mainstay Geoff Parling who chose to sign a new deal with Leicester Tigers.
But 31-year-old Kennedy is now likely to see out the two remaining years of his Toulon contract.
Hudson would be a direct replacement for Alex Brown, who was forced into premature retirement earlier this season.
Gloucester brought Lua Lokotui into the squad on an 18-month deal in December, to offset the loss of Brown to irreparable shoulder trouble.
But next term Lokotui will take Jim Hamilton's role, with the Kingsholm skipper heading to Montpellier.
That would allow 31-year-old Hudson to assume Gloucester's lineout guru mantle, should the Cherry and Whites be able to entice him south.
Gloucester may yet seek a further lock addition, but perhaps a youngster with potential rather than an experienced operator.
And that means they will not pursue their initial interest in Sale second-row Kearnan Myall.
Highly-rated England Under-20s cap Elliott Stooke will be expected to cement his first team breakthrough next term, while 36-year-old Will James should sign a new deal to continue next season.
Former London Irish and Bath lock Hudson is a shrewd lineout tactician as well as an accomplished top-flight operator.
He imposed his athletic presence at Bath, after graduating from the city's university with a biomedical sciences degree.
After three years with the Blue Black and Whites he made the London Irish switch, battling with Kennedy and Bob Casey for second-row starts.
Hudson joined Newcastle in 2009, assuming the captaincy a year later, and he led the Kingston Park club when Gloucester dispatched them 34-7 in the 2011 LV=Cup final.
The former Solihull School pupil remained at the Falcons after their Premiership relegation in the summer, with ex-Harlequins and Leicester boss Dean Richards leading Newcastle to a hefty Championship lead so far this term.
But now he could well be primed for the Gloucester move, where he would link up with defence coach Paul Moriarty again.
Former dual-code international Moriarty was Alan Tait's assistant during Hudson's Falcons tenure.