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.
Speaking ahead of Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture at home to Newcastle Falcons (kick off 3pm), Director of Rugby David Humphreys emphasised the importance this weekend of Gloucester building on last week's impressive home victory against the Exeter Chiefs.
Speaking to the assembled national and local media, try-scorer Jonny May was delighted and relieved to have tasted victory on Saturday evening, and is looking forward to the European Rugby Challenge Cup final.
Tom Savage delivered a Man of the Match performance against Exeter Chiefs on his birthday on Saturday evening. He spoke to GRTV after the game about the importance of the European Rugby Challenge Cup win.
Speaking to the local media this week, John Afoa described the hard work that the Cherry and White have been putting in and that he is fighting fit ready for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final clash with Exeter Chiefs.
Gloucester Rugby face Exeter Chiefs this Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final, and Charlie Sharples, who starts at full back is relishing the challenge of the big Kingsholm occasion.
Gloucester meet the Exeter Chiefs for the fourth time in competitive action this weekend, this time in the semi-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. Director of Rugby David Humphreys told the local media this week that this is the sort of game that Gloucester want to be involved in on a regular basis and that he and his team are looking forward to it.
Gloucester Rugby return to Aviva Premiership action against the Newcastle Falcons on Saturday (Kingsholm, kick off 3pm), and make several changes to the side that defeated Exeter Chiefs at home last weekend.