Leicester Tigers have signed scrum-half Tom Whiteley from Premiership rivals Bristol Bears on a “long-term” deal.
The 27-year-old had been set to join Tigers at the end of the season, but the Bears agreed to his early release.
He immediately joins a Leicester side that will lose the scrum-half duo of Ben Youngs and Jack van Poortvliet to England duty for the Six Nations.
“Tom is an experienced campaigner and adds great depth,” said Tigers interim boss Richard Wigglesworth.
“Not only does he provide us with options in the position during the Six Nations, while we have two players away with England, it’s pleasing that he’s also committed his future to Tigers beyond this season.”
Wigglesworth’s retirement as a player to take over from Steve Borthwick at Tigers, having been the starting scrum-half in last season’s Premiership final, also left the English champions looking for another number nine.
Whiteley was previously a team-mate of Wigglesworth at Saracens.
“I know Richard Wigglesworth well from our days at Saracens,” Whiteley said. “His knowledge and energy are unbelievable.”