ANTHONY ALLEN, one of the most gifted youngsters in English rugby, has pledged his future to Gloucester by signing a new two-year contract extension with Dean Ryan's Guinness Premiership pace-setters.
The 20-year-old, who has already won two England caps during the autumn internationals against New Zealand and Argentina, has agreed a deal that will keep him in Gloucester colours until 2009.
Allen's star quality is not in question and he signed for Gloucester in 2005 straight from Millfield School in Somerset. The young centre has progressed from the England Under-19s set-up, where he partnered Newcastle's Mathew Tait in midfield during the 2004 World Cup, to full honours in 2006.
In 15 Premiership appearances, he has scored seven times, including three tries this season against Leicester, Worcester and Wasps.
"Since I became a professional with Gloucester, everything has happened so fast I cannot really believe it," Allen told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk
"My initial ambition was to try and break into the first team and I am just delighted to have been able to contribute something to what we are trying to build at the club.
"It is an honour to represent a club with such tradition and history and to have my future confirmed for another two years is a great feeling. I just want to continue to develop and learn and try and make myself a better player.
"I have had a taste of what it takes to play at a higher level and I think I am in the best environment to help me achieve that with Dean Ryan at Gloucester."
Gloucester's head coach Ryan, who has already sealed new deals for centre Jack Adams and prop Jack Forster, was equally as thrilled for the centre.
"Anthony's quality is obvious to see and to have the chance to work with him over the long-term is a fantastic position for our club to be in.
"He is a tremendous talent, makes very few mistakes and is an individual we would aim to build a team around in the future. We were delighted when he made his England debut because it confirms our thoughts on him are correct and I am sure he will only get better.
"For a young man he is exceptionally mature, he has a great attitude and is keen to learn. I am delighted he has decided to sign for us - it shows Gloucester's ambition in the long-term."
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.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
Matt Kvesic was a try scorer and recipient of the Man of the Match award in Sunday's 35-10 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Zebre. He praised the Italian side for their spirited opposition and admitted that next week's return game will be a tough one.