Ayerza and Moody tip Castrogiovanni to extend his Test career with Italy
Martin Castrogiovanni fought back from career-threatening spinal surgery and has now been tipped to extend his glittering Test stint as "one of the world's best tighthead props".
The 34-year-old veteran could retire from Test rugby, sharing Italy's appearance record with captain Sergio Parisse, after Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash against Wales.
Castrogiovanni had a malignant tumour removed from his back in October that curtailed his Rugby World Cup, but the bullish front-rower raced back to fitness in time for a Six Nations campaign that could prove to be his Test swansong.
Former Leicester team-mates Marcos Ayerza and Lewis Moody believe Castrogiovanni should give serious thought to extending his international career still further, however, tipping their one-time Tigers team-mate to sustain his international impact.
"Castro has been and still remains one of the world's best top tighthead props for the last decade," Ayerza told Press Association Sport.
"He showed his quality not just here but also in France.
"And that's why he so highly regarded by most of the props around.
"He has earned that respect by playing well at the top level across his whole career.
"Props reach a certain age where they start to understand the game better, and play to their strengths more. You can't replace that with anything.
"Youth, energy and strength are all very well, but experience in the front row is unique.
"He's still one of the best tightheads around.
"So he can definitely keep going and keep performing well for longer if he wants."
Castrogiovanni and Parisse will reach 119 caps if both feature in Saturday's Six Nations closer against Warren Gatland's Wales.
Wily front-rower Castrogiovanni spent seven years at Leicester before leaving under a cloud in 2013, falling out with rugby director Richard Cockerill over his departure.
England's World Cup-winning flanker Moody recalls a little-known and spiky Castrogiovanni arriving at Leicester in 2006 - and quickly taking the Premiership by storm.
Now Moody believes the veteran still has the quality to squeeze in at least one more year of Test rugby.
"He had dreadlocks, little spiky dreads when he first turned up, that trademark long mane of hair and beard came later," Moody told Press Association Sport.
"His nickname was 'Meatball' at first.
"Watching him trying to learn English was very entertaining, but fair play to him, it's very good now.
"We used to have a good bit of banter about who was the stupidest person, but he would win that hands down every time!
"He tended to play up to the caricature of himself a bit, but he never let that affect his performances, he's an extremely competitive man.
"It's an amazing recovery from that back problem, frankly.
"It's just great news that it wasn't anything more worrying.
"He's given so much great service to Italy, and richly deserves every esteem in which he's held now, because he's earned it all.
"He has thrown absolutely everything into playing for Italy, and it would be great to see him do that for just a little bit longer now."