GLOUCESTER number eight Adam Balding will undergo an operation on his Achilles next Thursday that will rule him out for the rest of the season.
The 27-year-old England A international has a tear in his Achilles and is expected to be out of action for around three months.
"Naturally I am devastated," Balding told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk "I had fought really hard to push my claims for selection this season and felt I was really starting to run into form.
"We have some outstanding players at the club in the back row positions so you really have to earn the right to be in the side and felt I was doing that - this has just come at totally the wrong time for me and the club.
"But once I have had the operation I will start my recovery work and my aim is to come back fitter and stronger than before. We are very close to achieving something special at the club and I will be right behind the team for the remainder of the season."
Balding signed from Leicester three years ago and has made 57 appearances in all competitions with four tries.
This season he made 11 appearances in all competitions and his last start was against Sale last month.
"Adam has battled his way back into contention in the side but had played three great games in a row and would have been involved last weekend," said head coach Dean Ryan.
"He has really come into form and the premature end to his season is very disappointing for all involved because he was playing really well.
"We wish him well in his recovery following his operation."
There will be two stages to Balding's operation. He will have damage cleared away from his ankle and his Achilles tidied up at the same time.
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.
Matt Kvesic was a try scorer and recipient of the Man of the Match award in Sunday's 35-10 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Zebre. He praised the Italian side for their spirited opposition and admitted that next week's return game will be a tough one.