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 straight after the game, skipper Billy Twelvetrees told GRTV that losing at home to Bath, in front of a tremendous home support, was desperately disappointing and that the whole team were hurting in the dressing room.
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
On a tough evening at Kingsholm, Gloucester could escape neither a suffocating Bath defence, nor the whistle of referee Greg Garner as six penalties and a penalty try paved the way to a 39-16 win for the visitors.