CHRISTIAN CALIFANO, one of the best front row forwards of all time, has agreed a one-year extension to his contract with Gloucester Rugby until the end of the 2007/08 season.
The prop's original deal included an option for either side to terminate the contract at the end of this season, but Califano's presence on and off the field has convinced both parties to move early to extend the agreement.
"I'm really happy to confirm my second year at the club," Califano told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk. "We have an extremely talented group of players that will challenge for major honours over the next 18 months.
"I've enjoyed settling in at the club and playing in front of the Shed at Kinghsolm - it's an unbelievable atmosphere and really gets me fired up. Believe me, the best is yet to come."
Califano (34) won 68 French caps during his illustrious international career and joined Gloucester from Agen in the summer. He has made 11 appearances in all competitions so far this season for Gloucester, who currently sit second in the Guinness Premiership, and has been voted in the all-time best French front row.
"We're absolutely delighted to confirm Cali's extension," said head coach Dean Ryan.
"Since his arrival he has integrated seamlessly into the club and has provided real guidance and leadership both on and off the field, particularly to our young players. His performances have been strong and his ability to play at both tight and loosehead gives us real flexibility on the field."
Gloucester have been in good form in recent weeks, but Backs Coach Tim Taylor knows that the Cherry and Whites will have to be at their best on Thursday evening (kick off 7:45pm) against a Stade Rochelais side flying high this season.
Speaking to GRTV after the bonus point win over Bristol, back row Lewis Ludlow revealed that despite a tricky first half, Gloucester backed their skills to come through, a faith that was evident in a strong second half showing.
Willi Heinz scored Gloucester's second try as the Cherry and Whites overturned a disappointing first 40 minutes and 0-6 half time deficit, to earn a 26-18 Aviva Premiership victory over Bristol Rugby on Saturday.
It's the first Gloucester-Bristol derby at Kingsholm in over eight years this Saturday (kick off 4:30pm) and, previewing the game with the local media this week, Defence Coach Jonny Bell stressed that, with both teams in the bottom half of the table, they both need the points.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester front rower John Afoa knows the challenge ahead this week against Bristol, and calls on the Cherry and Whites to make the most of home advantage as a determined squad look to bounce back from a narrow loss to Saracens.
Tom Savage speaks to GRTV and the local media as Gloucester went down by 24-20 at Saracens on Sunday afternoon. The second row was disappointed with the result, despite a strong showing from the hosts.
Gloucester's much changed side had to overcome conceding an early try on Thursday evening, but responded in style to down Stade Rochelais by 35 points to 14 in the European Rugby Challenge Cup and set up a mouthwatering return fixture next weekend.
After taking 11 points from their last three games in the Aviva Premiership, including bonus point wins against Wasps and Bristol, Gloucester will be looking to continue their good form when they welcome La Rochelle to Kingsholm.