GLOUCESTER Rugby's dynamic England international flanker Andy Hazell has been granted a Testimonial year by the club for the 2008-9 season.
He will follow in the foot-steps of two other leading forwards of recent seasons - Andy Deacon and Mark Cornwell - who have also been granted the prestigious honour by the Guinness Premiership club.
Hazell is Gloucester's longest serving player, having made his debut in 1997 under then head coach Richard Hill. He has since developed into one of the most durable, committed and brave forwards in the country, making 180 first team appearances in all competitions.
His relentless, combative style means he is a firm favourite with the Gloucester faithful and he has also represented England seven times.
"There are not many Gloucester players who have ever been granted a Testimonial year so to follow players like Andy Deacon and Mark Cornwell with this honour means a huge amount to me," Hazell told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk
"I am passionate about Gloucester and its rugby. When you grow up as a local kid in the local leagues, it was always a dream to play for Gloucester and I am very fortunate to have fulfilled that dream. There is plenty I still want to achieve in the game and I am relishing the start of the new season.
"This is just something very special and to be only the third player to ever receive one is a tremendous honour."
Last season, Hazell made 13 appearances on the openside flank and had it not been for injury, he would have already made more than 200 senior appearances for Gloucester.
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.