JAMES FORRESTER will miss Gloucester's Guinness Premiership game against Leeds because of a rib injury.
The Gloucester and England number eight has been ruled out for at least a couple of weeks after suffering a recurrence of the complaint during his side's 32-25 defeat at Wasps on Boxing Day.
Forrester initially damaged his ribs against Toulon in the European Challenge Cup the previous week and his head coach Dean Ryan told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk "James will be sidelined for a number of weeks.
"It is obviously a significant blow to us because he is a key member of our squad. But his absence will provide an opportunity for somebody else to come in and perform for us at this important stage of the season."
Forrester has been an ever-present member of the Gloucester squad this season and has made eight Premiership appearances and has scored three tries.
It is likely that Peter Buxton, who was rested for the clash against Wasps, will return to the squad for Saturday's visit against Leeds.
Forrester said: "I hurt my rib cartilage last week against Toulon and I thought it had improved quite dramatically. I passed a fitness test for the Wasps game but it was pretty sore until I injured it again in the 60th minute.
"I can tell you it was a very painful experience and it made breathing quite difficult. It is obviously very frustrating and at the moment there is very little I can do about it.
"I will continue to rest it and ice it this week and let the healing process take its course. I will then see how it reacts but missing any rugby is hard to take."
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).