OLIVIER AZAM, Gloucester's talismanic hooker, has signed a two-year extension to his current contract that will keep him at Kingsholm until June 2009.
The former French international is in his second spell at Gloucester having initially spent 3 years at the club after making his debut in 2000 against Newcastle. He then returned home to his former side Montferrand (Clement-Auvergne) for 12 months before rejoining Dean Ryan's squad in 2004.
The 32-year-old, capped 10 times by his country, has made 106 appearances in total for Gloucester, scoring 16 tries. This season Azam has featured in 24 of the club's 29 matches to date.
"I am lucky to have been involved in a number of squads at Gloucester but the one Dean Ryan is assembling at the present time is the best I have seen," Azam told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk.
"To have the opportunity to be part of that for another two years is fantastic. Our current position in the Premiership shows the potential of this squad - as we continue to develop I really believe we can challenge consistently for the major trophies.
"I love the club, the stadium and playing in front of the supporters - it is a home to me and there is nowhere else I would rather be playing rugby."
Gloucester head coach Dean Ryan added: "Olivier offers a tremendous physical presence and is the perfect complement to our other options at hooker. This season we have seen him perform to as consistently high a level as at any time since he has been here.
"We have a squad built to take on the best in England and Europe and the experience of players like Olivier is crucial to that mix."
Earlier this month, Gloucester also announced the signing of England and British Lions hooker Andy Titterrell from Sale for next season.
Speaking to GRTV after the game, Backs Coach Tim Taylor was happy with the squad as they cruised to victory over Treviso. The result wasn't in doubt, but the Cherry and Whites laboured to secure a crucial try bonus point.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester Rugby centre Matt Scott is excited to take the field again as the Cherry and Whites look to build on the win in Bayonne when Treviso come to Kingsholm this Saturday.
Defence Coach Jonny Bell admitted this week that the European Rugby Challenge Cup victory in Bayonne was a welcome one, stressed that Benetton Treviso will pose a tough test on Saturday at Kingsholm but that Gloucester are determined to deliver in front of their own fans.
Motu Matu'u is looking to make up for lost time this week as the Cherry and Whites head to Basque Country to take on Bayonne in the European Rugby Challenge Cup opener. The Samoan hooker made his first appearance in the jersey last weekend, and is hoping to contribute to the team this weekend.
Gloucester's attentions turn to Europe this weekend as they travel to Bayonne for their opening fixture of this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup. Forwards Coach Trevor Woodman told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will be aiming to top their pool as they've done for the past two seasons, but is well aware of how tough it is to win in France.
Although understandably disappointed at seeing victory slip away at the last minute, Ben Morgan said after the game at Exeter that there were plenty of positives that Gloucester could take from the game.
Speaking after a last-gasp try from Exeter earned the Chiefs a 27-27 draw at Sandy Park on Saturday, Charlie Sharples admitted to mixed feelings. The game saw him score a try on his 200th competitive appearance for the club, but the frustration from not closing out the win was clear.
Gloucester made it two wins from two outings in this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup as they outplayed Benetton Treviso at Kingsholm to win by 37 points to 8, the bonus point try coming with the final play of the game.