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.
Tom Marshall scored his first Gloucester try in the 31-23 win over Saracens on Friday evening and was named Man of the Match. Talking to GRTV, he praised the forwards for setting the tone on the night.
Matt Scott was on media duty this week, and the Scottish international spoke about the benefit of having a full week of training with his club mates and the determination to get back to performing well against Saracens this Friday evening.
After the disappointment of last weekend's performance at Leicester, Director of Rugby David Humphreys told GRTV that he expects a big response from Gloucester in Friday's Aviva Premiership fixture at home to Saracens (kick off 7:45pm).
Gloucester travel to Tigers this Saturday in good spirits, and fly half Billy Burns is looking forward to testing himself in one of the toughest environments in the league as the Cherry and White hunt vital points as attention returns to the Aviva Premiership
After a good run of recent results, Gloucester will travel to take on Leicester in a good frame of mind according to Director of Rugby David Humphreys, but are well aware of the challenge that lies in wait.
Wales have named their side to face Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday. They make just one change as George North returns in place of Alex Cuthbert and Gloucester's Ross Moriarty starts again at number eight.
Sunday saw Gloucester Rugby host the Land Rover Cup at Dean Close School in Cheltenham, and it was Tewkesbury and Old Pats who will represent the club at Twickenham in the U11s and U12s categories respectively.
As part of its commitment to player welfare, The Rugby Players' Association (RPA) has today officially launched #LiftTheWeight, a new campaign that aims to help remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues and offer the necessary tools and support to enable our members to enjoy a healthy and fulfilling life, both on the field and off it.