MARCO BORTOLAMI, one of the most influential and respected players in the Guinness Premiership, has pledged his future to Gloucester Rugby until 2010.
The Italian national captain, a blazing success in his debut season last year after switching from Narbonne, has signed a two-year extension to his existing deal to cement his place at Kingsholm for two further seasons.
Bortolami (27) was made Italy's youngest captain in 2003 when he led the Azzurri into battle against the All Blacks, following his debut as a 20-year-old. He has since won 64 international caps and has developed into one of the best locks in the world.
"What can I say - Gloucester is my new home, my new life and my passion - for me to be able to stay for another two years is fantastic," he said.
"We made great progress last season and now it is up to us to build on it and create something very special in Gloucester's history.
"I believe in what we are trying to achieve and in Dean Ryan's philosophy for the team. We are young, we are ambitious and we want to be successful."
Bortolami's signature follows hot on the heels of a number of key contract extensions already made by Ryan as he creates stability in his playing squad. Alex Brown, Andy Hazell, James Simpson-Daniel and Will James have all re-signed since the beginning of the season.
"When Marco arrived at the club from Narbonne we believed he had the qualities to become a world class second row - not only as a player but also as an individual - and it delights me we have such a player within our squad," said head coach Dean Ryan.
"The re-signings show we are taking great care of this squad over the long-term. We are trying to build something that will create a legacy at Gloucester Rugby and Marco is central to that - I am absolutely delighted we have extended his contract. It is crucial for the club and its progress."
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees led Gloucester Rugby to European glory on Friday evening, scoring the crucial try on a memorable night for the Cherry and Whites. After the game, he paid tribute to his team's performance under pressure in the latter stages as they withstood a ferocious late Edinburgh fightback.
Speaking to GRTV, James Hook admitted that, after a superb opening, Gloucester really had to pass a test of character to hold off Edinburgh and lift the European Rugby Challenge Cup. He paid tribute to his team mates for all their hard work on what was a great day for the club.
Speaking to the assembled media this week, Gloucester Rugby club captain Billy Twelvetrees explains that the squad are ready for the final and that it will be an honour to lead the Cherry and Whites out in the Challenge Cup final.
Gloucester Rugby scrum half Greig Laidlaw will line up against former team mates Edinburgh Rugby on Friday evening, but the focus is firmly on his own roles as the Cherry and Whites gear up for the EPCR Challenge Cup final at The Stoop.
Speaking to the media ahead of Friday evening's European Rugby Challenge Cup Final against Edinburgh, Director of Rugby David Humphreys stressed that his improving Gloucester team will need to perform at their best to prevail against a tough Edinburgh side.
Dan Robson, a second half try scorer in the 42-40 win over Newcastle on Saturday, admitted that Gloucester had started slowly but that the second half comeback showed real character and maintains momentum going into Friday's European final.
Gareth Evans was a first half replacement for the Cherry and Whites on Saturday afternoon, but the back rower's impressive carrying kept the hosts on the front foot when they needed it most to snatch a dramatic comeback win.
After his last ditch try clinched the 42-40 Aviva Premiership victory over Newcastle at Kingsholm on Saturday, Billy Burns told GRTV that all the Gloucester team deserve credit for hanging in there against a Falcons team who really made life tough for the Cherry and Whites.
Figures released by EPCR following Gloucester winning the European Rugby Challenge Cup on Friday evening show that, unsurprisingly, a number of those wearing Cherry and White showed up well in the various statistical categories.
Speaking after the European Rugby Challenge Cup triumph on Friday evening, Director of Rugby David Humphreys was thrilled with how the Cherry and Whites managed the game and secured the first major European silverware for nine years.
Friday night saw the Cherry and Whites lift the European Rugby Challenge Cup following the 19-13 victory over Edinburgh Rugby. The club photographer caught the best of the action and celebrations from The Stoop.
Once again for Gloucester, it went right to the very last whistle, the 14 men in Cherry and White hanging on heroically to win the European Rugby Challenge Cup by 19 points to 13 over Edinburgh at the Stoop on Friday evening.
The run-in on Gloucester Rugby Lotto will get your May off to an incredible start. Make sure you don't miss out on this Saturday's enormous £21.5 MILLION estimated jackpot! Grab your chance to hit the biggest jackpot rollover in the business end of the season.