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.
As Gloucester prepare for their 39th game of the season, against Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways on Sunday, David Humphreys told the local media that this week has been all about getting the players mentally and physically ready after a tough game against Connacht last Sunday.
Speaking to GRTV after the 40-32 victory over Connacht on Sunday, skipper Billy Twelvetrees explained that Gloucester had had to learn to be patient and cut out the errors to earn the win and progress to next weekend's final play-off against Bordeaux-Begles.
Jonny May's superb late score capped a thrilling 40-32 European play-off win over Connacht on Sunday. The winger spoke afterwards of his team's character and spirit as he looked ahead to one more week of rugby.
Speaking to GRTV this afternoon, Director of Rugby David Humphreys hailed the 'never say die' attitude of the team, after despite not being at their best, fighting back to take a 40-32 win after extra time over Connacht.
Jonny May continues on the wing on Sunday as Connacht come to town, and the England wing explains to the local media this week that he is delighted with his form and is looking forward to taking on Pat Lam's men.
When the Gloucester Rugby squad and staff report for their first day of preseason training on Wednesday morning, they will be greeted with a new look training kit from XBlades Sports ready for the first sessions.
This Sunday, hop on your bicycle and join up with the Pied Piper Sportive to test out new challenging routes across the county with Gloucester Rugby's Kingsholm Stadium the start and finish of the ride.