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.
Willi Heinz returned from injury to skipper Gloucester to a famous 16-14 win over Stade Rochelais on Saturday evening. Speaking after the game in France, Heinz admitted the win wasn't pretty but was full of courage and a great result for the club.
Billy Burns contributed all Gloucester's points in the 16-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening, but dedicated the victory to the whole squad whilst also praising the travelling support.
Speaking after Gloucester's brave 16-14 win against Stade Rochelais which clinches a European Rugby Challenge Cup final spot, Director of Rugby David Humphreys paid tribute to the way the team had executed the game plan in a hostile environment against quality opposition.
Greig Laidlaw returns to the Gloucester Rugby squad this week, and his inclusion is an important one after a serious ankle injury. The Scottish scrum half is determined to drive the team forward in their European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final in La Rochelle this Saturday.
Gloucester take on La Rochelle in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final in France on Saturday evening, with the Top 14 side the favourites in the eyes of the bookmakers. However, David Humphreys is looking for his side to rise to the occasion against a familiar opponent.
Speaking to GRTV after Saturday's 39-30 Aviva Premiership win over Sale, Mark Atkinson admitted that the performance wasn't perfect but that the team's character shone through in a game that could easily have slipped away.
Monday evening saw Freddie Clarke in A League action against Exeter, Saturday saw him make his Aviva Premiership debut. And both games resulted in wins! Freddie spoke to GRTV after the 39-30 win over Sale.
Scotland scrum-half Greig Laidlaw is targeting a 'unique' finish to his Gloucester tenure in the European Rugby Challenge Cup final at the venue where his professional playing career began, BT Murrayfield Stadium (Friday 12 May).
Gloucester's young United side once again dug deep to take an illustrious scalp, overturning a half-time deficit to earn a 40-29 victory over Wasps and earn a place in the Aviva Premiership A League final.