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."
As Gloucester prepare for their 39th game of the season, against Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways on Sunday, David Humphreys told the local media that this week has been all about getting the players mentally and physically ready after a tough game against Connacht last Sunday.
Speaking to GRTV after the 40-32 victory over Connacht on Sunday, skipper Billy Twelvetrees explained that Gloucester had had to learn to be patient and cut out the errors to earn the win and progress to next weekend's final play-off against Bordeaux-Begles.
Jonny May's superb late score capped a thrilling 40-32 European play-off win over Connacht on Sunday. The winger spoke afterwards of his team's character and spirit as he looked ahead to one more week of rugby.
Speaking to GRTV this afternoon, Director of Rugby David Humphreys hailed the 'never say die' attitude of the team, after despite not being at their best, fighting back to take a 40-32 win after extra time over Connacht.
Jonny May continues on the wing on Sunday as Connacht come to town, and the England wing explains to the local media this week that he is delighted with his form and is looking forward to taking on Pat Lam's men.
Speaking to the local media this week, front rower John Afoa is familiar with the challenge of Connacht from his time in Belfast, and the World Cup winner is fully aware of the challenge they pose ahead of Sunday's meeting in the Champions Cup play off
Speaking ahead of Gloucester's European Rugby Champions play-off against Connacht on Sunday (Kingsholm, 3:30pm), Director of Rugby David Humphreys admitted that he's glad to have more players available than in recent weeks ahead of a tough fixture.
Nick Wood captained the Cherry and Whites on Saturday afternoon, and the experienced front rower expressed his pride in the young squad in defeat to Bath on the final day of the Aviva Premiership season.
Lewis Ludlow scored Gloucester's opening try in the 30-50 defeat at Bath on Saturday, part of an impressive performance by the young back row forward. Speaking after the game, he paid tribute to the young Gloucester side who went toe to toe with the Aviva Premiership semi-finalists.
Tongan international forward Sione Kalamafoni returns after injury to take up his usual place in the back row as Gloucester look to finish their season on a high against Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways on Sunday.
Gloucester Rugby is delighted to confirm that 18 year old Mat Protheroe, a product of Hartpury College and one of the brightest young talents in the English game, has signed a senior contract at Kingsholm.