ONE OF the most devastating and exciting game-breakers in the country - James Simpson-Daniel - has become the latest Gloucester player to sign an extension to his contract.
The Kingsholm star has signed a two-year extension to his current deal that will now run until 2011.
After joining Gloucester straight from Sedbergh School in 2000, Simpson-Daniel (25) has become one of the most devastating finishers in Gloucester's recent history. In 140 appearances in all competitions, he has scored 66 times as well as winning 10 England caps.
"Gloucester is the only professional rugby club I have ever known - it was the one that made me feel most welcome and at home when I left school and sometimes it is hard to imagine playing anywhere else," Simpson-Daniel told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk
"To have the opportunity to re-sign and extend my contact here at such an exciting and breakthrough time for the club is a massive thing for me - I am really pleased to have the chance to help Gloucester to bigger and better things.
"There is a clear vision in place for the future - on and off the field - and I want to play my part in that. I love the atmosphere, the level of support and sheer passion for the game. It is impossible not to be inspired by that.
"Dean Ryan has put a lot of faith in me and I want to re-pay that. It is clear with the signings that have been made this season that the club really intends to challenge for major honours - that is what I am here for and what I want to do."
Gloucester's head coach Dean Ryan, who has also been able to announce the signing of flanker Andy Hazell and Alex Brown recently, added: "James is an outstanding player - a natural athlete and game-breaker who has the ability to change the course of a match with one break, one pass or a piece of vision.
"There are not many individuals in the country that possess the range of skills James has. He is an international-quality player and I think it says a great deal about where we want Gloucester to be that we have moved now to retain his services.
"James is a central figure at the club, is still developing and evolving as a player and this extra security for him is of huge significance to the club. I think Gloucester supporters will be thrilled he has re-signed until 2011."
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.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
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).