Gloucester Rugby Club received a massive boost ahead of Friday night's Heineken Cup clash away at Ulster with the news that Phil Vickery has signed a contract extension that will see the 28 year-old prop stay at the Kingsholm club until the end of the 2006/07 season.
The England and Lions international had two seasons to run on his current four-year contract, and the new package has added an extra year.
Vickery, who has made more than 120 appearances for the Kingsholm club, returned to first team duties on Sunday with a full 80 minutes after missing the last six weeks with a blow-out fracture around the eye area.
Commenting on http://www.gloucesterrugbyclub.com/ director of rugby Nigel Melville said: "It was great to have Vicks back involved on Sunday. He brings massive experience and leadership to the squad, and the new contract means he'll be part of the set-up here as we continue to develop.
"I believe that we've still to see the best of him. I said last week I'd never seen him train so hard as he has done, and that's great news for both Phil and us.
"He's got some great years ahead of him and we're pleased that those will be spent here at Kingsholm."
Vickery, who made his debut for Gloucester in the 1996/97 season, added: "I'm pleased my future is at Kingsholm. It's been a mixed season so far what with injuries and team results, but I want to be part of where this club is going, and it's now the start of a mission for us.
"We know how important Friday's game is, and that is followed by a Powergen Cup quarter-final and then key Premiership games. We know what we've got to do in the next few months."
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.
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.
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).