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 after the 37-8 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Benetton Treviso, James Hook admitted that the Italian side made things tough for Gloucester at times but that the Cherry and Whites are happy to take the bonus point win and turn their focus to Northampton next week.
Speaking to GRTV after the game, Backs Coach Tim Taylor was happy with the squad as they cruised to victory over Treviso. The result wasn't in doubt, but the Cherry and Whites laboured to secure a crucial try bonus point.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester Rugby centre Matt Scott is excited to take the field again as the Cherry and Whites look to build on the win in Bayonne when Treviso come to Kingsholm this Saturday.
Defence Coach Jonny Bell admitted this week that the European Rugby Challenge Cup victory in Bayonne was a welcome one, stressed that Benetton Treviso will pose a tough test on Saturday at Kingsholm but that Gloucester are determined to deliver in front of their own fans.
Motu Matu'u is looking to make up for lost time this week as the Cherry and Whites head to Basque Country to take on Bayonne in the European Rugby Challenge Cup opener. The Samoan hooker made his first appearance in the jersey last weekend, and is hoping to contribute to the team this weekend.
Gloucester's attentions turn to Europe this weekend as they travel to Bayonne for their opening fixture of this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup. Forwards Coach Trevor Woodman told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will be aiming to top their pool as they've done for the past two seasons, but is well aware of how tough it is to win in France.
Although understandably disappointed at seeing victory slip away at the last minute, Ben Morgan said after the game at Exeter that there were plenty of positives that Gloucester could take from the game.
Gloucester made it two wins from two outings in this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup as they outplayed Benetton Treviso at Kingsholm to win by 37 points to 8, the bonus point try coming with the final play of the game.