CHRISTIAN CALIFANO, one of the giants of the French Test scrum over the last decade, has joined Gloucester Rugby on a two-year contract.
The 33-year-old tight-head prop, equally at home at loose-head, won 68 caps during an illustrious international career where he made a name for himself as one of the most destructive scrummagers in the business.
Califano, who moves to Kingsholm from French club side Agen, becomes the third international forward recruited by Gloucester for next season, following in the footsteps of Italian duo Marco Bortolami and Carlos Nieto.
"He brings with him a weight of experience that is almost unparalleled in the European game. He has spent the majority of his career in the Heineken Cup and will help us enormously as we test ourselves in club rugby's most challenging environment next year.
"When you are competing at the highest level you need people in your side who have been there before and proved themselves to be winners - Christian is one of those people and will be a massive influence at the club, both on and off the field."
It will be Califano's second stint in the English Premiership following a brief spell with Saracens in 2002/03. He previously spent several years at French side Toulouse and later gained experience of the Southern Hemisphere's top club competition - the Super 12 - with the Auckland Blues.
"The club has massive potential and I am coming to Gloucester because I believe we can win trophies.
"Dean Ryan has a very clear vision for the team and their progress on the field this season in qualifying for the Heineken Cup is a sign of things to come. The training facilities are first class and I can't wait to experience the famous atmosphere of Kingsholm on match day.
"It will also be nice to join up with my former French team-mates Patrice [Collazo] and Olivier [Azam]. I'm also keen to work closely with Jack Forster and pass on my experience to him. He is a young prop with a big future in the game."
Califano made his France debut in 1994 against the All Blacks and won the last of his 68 caps in 2003 against Ireland in the Six Nations.
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
On a tough evening at Kingsholm, Gloucester could escape neither a suffocating Bath defence, nor the whistle of referee Greg Garner as six penalties and a penalty try paved the way to a 39-16 win for the visitors.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).