ALASDAIR STROKOSCH has said he is thrilled to win the Guinness Premiership player of the month award and has set his sights on maintaining Gloucester's lead at the top of the table.
The tough tackling flanker, who has just signed a new two-year contract extension with Dean Ryan's side following his summer move from Edinburgh, has featured in nine of Gloucester's Premiership games so far this season and was instrumental in their December victories over Newcastle and Bristol.
"All I can say is that I am really shocked to win the award but really pleased at the same time," Strokosch said. "I have just been trying to fit in; play as well as I can and make a contribution for the team.
"Although it is great for me personally, I think it shows just how well we have played as a team so far this season and my aim is to keep doing as well as I can, starting on Friday against Bath.
"It has been a big learning experience for me since my move to Kingsholm but it is fantastic to have coaches and players that believe in my ability and I just want to go out and keep playing at a consistently high level and try and get even better because we are building something really sepcial at the club."
Strokosch (24), has one Scotland cap and has already become a firm favourite thanks to his durability, work-rate and application. Gloucester's head coach Dean Ryan added: "It was a big gamble for him to leave what he knew in the summer and join us but he is the sort of player who embodies exactly what we are as a side.
"He is honest, hard working and is the reason guys like Ryan Lamb and Anthony Allen can play the sort of rugby they do. It is the effort he puts in that is so crucial to us and I am delighted he has been recognised in this way because it shows it does not go un-noticed.
"Alasdair has been a fantastic signing for us and I am sure there is more to come."
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.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
Matt Kvesic was a try scorer and recipient of the Man of the Match award in Sunday's 35-10 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Zebre. He praised the Italian side for their spirited opposition and admitted that next week's return game will be a tough one.