GLOUCESTER'S British Lions and England full-back/wing Iain Balshaw has signed a new contract with the Guinness Premiership leaders until 2010.
Regarded as one of the most influential broken-field runners in the country, Balshaw's ability to link play from anywhere in the back three has been instrumental in Gloucester's charge to the top of the table this season.
The 29-year-old joined the club from Leeds Carnegie two seasons ago and in 38 appearances has scored 12 tries - including four in the Guinness Premiership this season. His career began and started to flourish at Bath and in 1999-2000 he scored 15 tries in 21 appearances.
It was during that remarkable scoring sequence that he burst onto the scene with England and he has since won 35 caps and was also part of the British Lions tour to Australia in 2001.
"I said when I joined Gloucester from Leeds that it was a place with massive potential and with the development the squad has gone through over the last 18 months, some outstanding signings and a fantastic structure, I am thrilled to have signed for another two years," Balshaw told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk
"The challenge is to constantly improve and be your best - we have only just begun to scratch the surface of what we can achieve and that is very exciting. The club is growing and I want to grow with it and take it as far as I can.
"I am confident that we can fulfil our ambitions over the long-term. That is going to take hard work and dedication but Dean Ryan and the coaching team are building something special, we are attracting some fantastic players and it is a great place to play rugby."
Gloucester's head coach Dean Ryan added: "I have been delighted with Balsh's contribution this season and I think we have seen the benefit of a really good pre-season and the confidence return to his game.
"He brings some outstanding attributes to our style of play. His running from deep provides a genuine cutting edge and his kicking game is excellent. I am really pleased a player of his quality has decided to stay with us for the long-term.
"We are on the cusp of something very special and to achieve it we need players of Iain's quality and I am delighted he has pledged his future to us."
Greig Laidlaw skippers the Cherry and Whites on Friday evening, when they head to Sale Sharks for the penultimate game of this season's Aviva Premiership. The Scottish half back spoke to GRTV about the challenge posed in Salford.
Previewing Friday night's Aviva Premiership fixture away at Sale Sharks, Head Coach Laurie Fisher acknowledged the fine home record that the Salford based outfit have built up this season, but is looking for Gloucester to round off their campaign on a high note.
Speaking to GRTV following the 16-9 victory over Exeter, Tom Savage felt that Gloucester needed that win after a tough few weeks and hopes that it acts as a springboard to a good end to the season for the Cherry and Whites.
A week on from '...letting down ourselves, the jersey and the supporters...', skipper Greig Laidlaw was full of praise for his team mates following the 16-9 Aviva Premiership win over Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm on Friday evening.
With Gloucester looking to bounce back after exiting the European Rugby Challenge Cup last Saturday, Director of Rugby David Humphreys told the local media that the visit of Exeter Chiefs on Friday evening (kick off 7:45pm) will be a big test of character for the Cherry and Whites.
Rob Cook couldn't hide his disappointment when he spoke to GRTV following the 21-23 defeat at home to Newport Gwent Dragons on Saturday, stating that Gloucester simply hadn't been good enough on the day as their reign as European Rugby Challenge Cup holders comes to an end.
Four penalties from the boot of skipper Greig Laidlaw were just enough to see Gloucester dog out a tense 12-11 win at Sale on Friday evening and thwart the home team's attempts to finish the season unbeaten at home.
Thirteen years on from Gloucester Rugby's famous Powergen Cup victory over Northampton at Twickenham, many of the players and management from that side are gathering once more to recreate that famous day.