GLOUCESTER'S Samoan centre Terry Fanolua has targeted a return to first team action in time for the start of the Guinness Premiership after undergoing surgery to correct cartilage damage to his knee.
The powerfully constructed midfield man picked up the problem to his right knee during the final stages of his summer involvement with the Samoan national squad.
He flew back from Auckland on Monday and immediately underwent a scan and arthroscopy at a London hospital that revealed the extent of the damage and means he will miss the remainder of Gloucester's pre-season campaign against Calvisano, Doncaster and Viadana.
Gloucester's record Premiership appearance holder and try-scorer Fanolua has scored 34 tries in 142 matches since his debut in 1997, and has played in every position in the backline apart from scrum-half, and should be back in training in a month and hopes to be in action again when Gloucester travel to Worcester on September 4.
Talking to www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk head coach Dean Ryan said: "There is nothing structurally wrong or anything like that but it is a problem that needed addressing.
"He will undergo three of four weeks rehabilitation and at this stage we hope he will be available for the first Premiership game of the season.
"He had a little bit of a tear but it needed sorting out. It's not serious and he should be training again soon which is important because he is a very important member of our squad."
Fanolua was an ever present in the Gloucester side last season until a restrictive back injury reduced his effectiveness at the end of the campaign.
But he came off the bench in the Zurich Premiership Wildcard final against Saracens and produced an outstanding performance in a losing cause.
"The summer has certainly not been a holiday for me but we achieved what we wanted and that was to qualify for the World Cup," he said. "The good thing about the operation is that I can get a bit of a break because I played a lot of games in a short space of time.
"I have already started my rehab and if all goes well with the injury I can start doing some upper-body strength work in the gym by the end of the week and hopefully next week get back on the bike.
"It's not a major injury but I just needed to have it done."
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).