MEMBERS of Gloucester's first team squad delivered a little Christmas spirit to local children last week when they visited the Battledown Children's Ward at Cheltenham General Hospital to deliver presents to patients.
Organised by Duncan McRae, the Gloucester stand-off, a number of the Kingsholm stars took time out to deliver a sack-load of goodwill to children who will be in hospital over the festive period.
McRae organised a donation from every player in the Gloucester squad and management team and went on a spending spree at Toys 'R' Us.
The result was a huge number of gifts for local children and McRae told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk "I had seen in the past that football teams often pay a visit to hospitals at Christmas and I just thought it was a great opportunity for us to put something back into the community.
"Some of these kids put a lot of effort into supporting us and I wanted the club to put a little bit back when they are not very fortunate.
"When you see and hear that some of the children will be in hospital over Christmas, it puts everything else in your life into perspective and to pay a visit and drop off some presents was the least we could do."
McRae was joined by team-mates Olly Morgan, James Parkes, Jon Goodridge, Rob Thirlby and Brad Davies for an hour or so last week.
Claire Hunt, who is the ward manager on Battledown, said: "We certainly had some very excited children during the visit and we would like to thank Gloucester Rugby and the players very much for their generosity. It really was fantastic to see them."
Speaking to the local media this week, John Afoa described the hard work that the Cherry and White have been putting in and that he is fighting fit ready for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final clash with Exeter Chiefs.
Gloucester Rugby face Exeter Chiefs this Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final, and Charlie Sharples, who starts at full back is relishing the challenge of the big Kingsholm occasion.
Gloucester meet the Exeter Chiefs for the fourth time in competitive action this weekend, this time in the semi-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. Director of Rugby David Humphreys told the local media this week that this is the sort of game that Gloucester want to be involved in on a regular basis and that he and his team are looking forward to it.
Following the 29-26 loss to Harlequins, club captain Billy Twelvetrees spoke of his disappointment that the Cherry and Whites were unable to cash in on the home side's indiscipline and lose a lead on Saturday afternoon.
Number eight Gareth Evans admitted to a collective feeling of frustration as Gloucester lost narrowly at Harlequins on Saturday, but insisted that there are plenty of positives to draw upon ahead of next Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final at home to Exeter.
Gloucester travel to the Stoop on Saturday afternoon to take on Harlequins in the Aviva Premiership. The Cherry and Whites make just two changes from last weekend's win over Connacht as they seek consistency and continuity in their play as Nick Walshe told the local media this week.
Gloucester Rugby qualified for their first European final since 2006 as they defeated the in-form Exeter Chiefs by 30 points to 19 in a thrilling semi-final at Kingsholm on Saturday evening. The club photographer caught the best of the action.
Recent meetings between these two teams have often been thrillers, and this was no exception. It went down to the final few minutes, but Gloucester produced the goods when it mattered to qualify for the European Rugby Challenge Cup Final, beating Exeter 30-19.
Supporters who are still to purchase tickets for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final at home to Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm (kick off 7:45pm) are reminded that Early Bird prices are only valid until 6:30pm on Thursday evening.