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."
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.