ANDY HAZELL, the dynamic Gloucester flanker who has been voted players' player of the season twice in successive years, has signed a three-year contract extension at Kingsholm that will run until 2011.
The news, on the eve of the 2007/08 Guinness Premiership season, is of vast significance to Dean Ryan's squad as he attempts to build on last season's appearance in the Guinness Premiership final.
Hazell, who already had a year to run on his existing deal, is a talismanic figure at Kingsholm and will begin his 10th season with the club when Gloucester open their new campaign against Leeds next month.
"I have been very proud and privileged to have had the opportunity to represent my home-town club for so long and I am thrilled to have this chance to be involved in one of the most exciting times in Gloucester's history," Hazell told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk
"As a youngster growing up in the city, all I wanted to do was wear a Gloucester shirt - there is nothing like playing in front of a full and packed Kingsholm - so to know I can still do that is fantastic for me and my family.
"We are building something tremendously exciting at the club on and off the field I cannot wait to be a part of it again when the season starts. I think the signings that have been made by Dean Ryan show exactly where he wants the club to be and I am very excited about that prospect.
"There is competition for places, there is a real togetherness in the squad and the progression of the club is something we all want to be involved in."
The 29-year-old, who has won seven England caps, made his Gloucester debut in the 1997/98 season and has since made 167 appearances in all competitions and is now Gloucester's longest serving player.
His relentless style and commitment were key components in Gloucester's assault on Twickenham last season and head coach Ryan added:
"I think we are very fortunate to have a guy like Andy Hazell at the club - he is a fantastically dedicated, determined servant of Gloucester and to retain his services is great for us.
"A number of times last season I said we were not the same side when the likes of Andy Hazell was not involved and I think that just underlines his value to us.
"We made significant progress last season and much of that was down to Andy and his level of performance week in, week out. I hope he can get better and help Gloucester achieve even greater things."
Previewing Friday evening's local derby at Bristol, Interim Head Coach Jonny Bell told the local media that Gloucester's preparations have gone well and that the whole squad is united in trying to finish the season on a high.
Speaking to GRTV this week, Acting Head Coach Jonny Bell spoke of his pleasure in the efforts and intensity in training from the squad after a tricky few weeks. The team were preparing for big games with Bristol and Cardiff in coming weeks.
Willi Heinz was understandably and visibly disappointed when he spoke to GRTV after the 27-30 home defeat to Harlequins, apologising to the home support as the game slipped away after seemingly having the game under control.
Speaking to the local media this week, Scottish centre Matt Scott spoke of the squad's determination to put in a big home performance against Harlequins, with vital points up for grabs in the hunt for a Top Six spot this Saturday (KO 3pm)
Looking ahead to Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture at home to Harlequins (kick off 3pm), Head Coach Laurie Fisher told the local media that Gloucester will need to be on top of their game in a match which has big implications in terms of top six ambitions.
A big few days for the Gloucester-Hartpury Women side. First came the news that the team will compete in Women's Super Rugby next season, and on Saturday the team will play Worcester Ladies IIs at Kingsholm. Centre Hannah Jones and wing Michelle Ruddock spoke to GRTV this week to reflect on events.
In the aftermath of the Aviva Premiership victory over Bristol, Interim Head Coach Jonny Bell was able to look forward to this weekend's European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final against Cardiff Blues (Kingsholm, kick off 8:05pm).
Missing so many starters, and up against a team fighting for their Premiership existence, Gloucester did what had to be done at Ashton Gate on Friday evening battling their way to a 32-14 Aviva Premiership win over Bristol Rugby.