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."
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees told GRTV after the win in Brive that the game could have been a tough one to get up for, but that his Gloucester team mates did themselves proud on the night and got a big result.
Reflecting on the 31-20 victory in Brive on Thursday evening, Director of Rugby David Humphreys said that clinching a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final was the overall aim and duly achieved.
Gloucester may have already clinched a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys wants his side to finish the pool stages on a winning note in Brive on Thursday evening.
Speaking after Saturday's win, James Hudson was happy to record a bonus-point win against a hugely physical Oyonnax side as Gloucester secured their passage into the European Rugby Challenge Cup Quarter Finals
Billy Burns was a try scorer on his first European start for Gloucester and, speaking after the game, admitted that it was good to get the five points although there are still things to work on before the trip to Brive.
Gloucester Rugby have added to their front row strength in depth for next season with the signings of Paul Doran-Jones, Paddy McAllister and Nicky Thomas from Harlequins, Aurillac and the Ospreys respectively.
Connacht's 30-20 win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening means that they are the third best placed runners up and will come to Kingsholm for the quarter-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup in early April.