Phil Vickery will have a back operation on Saturday
PHIL VICKERY will undergo surgery on Saturday to relieve pressure on a nerve root caused by a disc protrusion.
The Gloucester and England tighthead prop will have his third back operation in Bristol under the guidance of consultant neurosurgeon Dr Richard Nelson and faces three months rehabilitation from the surgery.
Gloucester's head coach Dean Ryan told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk "In view of the fact that he has had previous surgery in this area his recovery and rehabilitation will be carefully monitored by his specialist and the Gloucester and England medical teams.
"He faces three months rehabilitation from the operation and there is obviously a great likelihood it will disrupt the rest of his season. But we remain very positive that his outlook is bright.
"Naturally, we are very disappointed to lose Phil because he had been playing back at his best and is a world class performer. Everyone at Gloucester wishes him well for the surgery and for his recovery period."
Vickery damaged his back during Gloucester's Guinness Premiership victory over Saracens earlier this month and will now miss the entire Six Nations with England.
England Head coach Andy Robinson said: "Our best wishes will be with Phil on Saturday. It shows what a fighter he is that he has twice come back from surgery and we are hoping that this operation is also successful. He is an outstanding member of the England squad and will be sorely missed by us and Gloucester."
Vickery has won 47 England caps and has undergone back operations before in February 2003 and May 2004 as well as a shoulder operation in the summer of 2000.
This season, he made his return to Gloucester in a pre-season game against Calvisano following a broken arm and has made 13 appearances in all competitions. Last season he also suffered a blow-out fracture of his eye socket in a Premiership game against Wasps.
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
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.
On a tough evening at Kingsholm, Gloucester could escape neither a suffocating Bath defence, nor the whistle of referee Greg Garner as six penalties and a penalty try paved the way to a 39-16 win for the visitors.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).