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."
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).