LESLEY VAINIKOLO has undergone surgery to repair his ruptured right Achilles tendon and will not play again this season.
The Gloucester and England winger underwent surgery from specialist James Calder at the Cromwell Hospital in London on Monday night and will be out of action for at least seven months.
The 29-year-old suffered the injury during the first-half of Gloucester's 22-16 Guinness Premiership victory over Saracens on Saturday, having just helped create a score for full-back Olly Morgan.
Vainikolo has made 17 appearances in all competitions this season and has scored eight tries. In 35 appearances since his debut against Leeds Carnegie last season, when he scored five tries, he has scored 19 times in 35 appearances and has made five appearances for England following his debut against Wales in the Six Nations last season.
"Les is a massive part of our squad, not just for his on-field contributions but because his personality is such an integral and vital part of the group," said Gloucester's head coach Dean Ryan.
"It will naturally leave a very significant gap and with the current injuries we have in the squad at the moment this could not have come at a worse time.
"Les has undergone surgery and when it is appropriate he will begin his rehabilitation process but we appreciate it will be a long road and he will have all the support he needs from everyone associated with the club."
Gloucester have been in good form in recent weeks, but Backs Coach Tim Taylor knows that the Cherry and Whites will have to be at their best on Thursday evening (kick off 7:45pm) against a Stade Rochelais side flying high this season.
Speaking to GRTV after the bonus point win over Bristol, back row Lewis Ludlow revealed that despite a tricky first half, Gloucester backed their skills to come through, a faith that was evident in a strong second half showing.
Willi Heinz scored Gloucester's second try as the Cherry and Whites overturned a disappointing first 40 minutes and 0-6 half time deficit, to earn a 26-18 Aviva Premiership victory over Bristol Rugby on Saturday.
It's the first Gloucester-Bristol derby at Kingsholm in over eight years this Saturday (kick off 4:30pm) and, previewing the game with the local media this week, Defence Coach Jonny Bell stressed that, with both teams in the bottom half of the table, they both need the points.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester front rower John Afoa knows the challenge ahead this week against Bristol, and calls on the Cherry and Whites to make the most of home advantage as a determined squad look to bounce back from a narrow loss to Saracens.
Tom Savage speaks to GRTV and the local media as Gloucester went down by 24-20 at Saracens on Sunday afternoon. The second row was disappointed with the result, despite a strong showing from the hosts.
Gloucester's much changed side had to overcome conceding an early try on Thursday evening, but responded in style to down Stade Rochelais by 35 points to 14 in the European Rugby Challenge Cup and set up a mouthwatering return fixture next weekend.
After taking 11 points from their last three games in the Aviva Premiership, including bonus point wins against Wasps and Bristol, Gloucester will be looking to continue their good form when they welcome La Rochelle to Kingsholm.