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 take on La Rochelle in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final in France on Saturday evening, with the Top 14 side the favourites in the eyes of the bookmakers. However, David Humphreys is looking for his side to rise to the occasion against a familiar opponent.
Speaking to GRTV after Saturday's 39-30 Aviva Premiership win over Sale, Mark Atkinson admitted that the performance wasn't perfect but that the team's character shone through in a game that could easily have slipped away.
Monday evening saw Freddie Clarke in A League action against Exeter, Saturday saw him make his Aviva Premiership debut. And both games resulted in wins! Freddie spoke to GRTV after the 39-30 win over Sale.
Speaking to the local media this week, back row Ross Moriarty spoke of the squad's determination to cut out mistakes, and get a composed performance in as they host Sale Sharks at Kingsholm on Saturday.
Interim Head Coach Jonny Bell is expecting a tough test this weekend against a Sale Sharks side who have been playing some good rugby in recent weeks, but told the local media this week that the whole squad are determined to finish the season as positively as possible.
Billy Burns will get the headlines for his 16 point haul, but it was a team of heroes who went to La Rochelle and fought like demons to secure a magnificent 16-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup win on Saturday evening.
Gloucester Rugby welcome back scrum-halves Willi Heinz and Greig Laidlaw to the matchday squad as they make five changes to their starting line-up for Saturday evening's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final against Stade Rochelais.
Charlie Beckett and Tom Hudson have been regulars in the Gloucester United side that's competed in the Aviva Premiership A League this season and are hoping to be involved in the semi-final against Wasps on Monday evening at Kingsholm, kick off 7:30pm.