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."
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees told GRTV after the win in Brive that the game could have been a tough one to get up for, but that his Gloucester team mates did themselves proud on the night and got a big result.
Reflecting on the 31-20 victory in Brive on Thursday evening, Director of Rugby David Humphreys said that clinching a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final was the overall aim and duly achieved.
Gloucester may have already clinched a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys wants his side to finish the pool stages on a winning note in Brive on Thursday evening.
Speaking after Saturday's win, James Hudson was happy to record a bonus-point win against a hugely physical Oyonnax side as Gloucester secured their passage into the European Rugby Challenge Cup Quarter Finals
Billy Burns was a try scorer on his first European start for Gloucester and, speaking after the game, admitted that it was good to get the five points although there are still things to work on before the trip to Brive.
Gloucester Rugby have added to their front row strength in depth for next season with the signings of Paul Doran-Jones, Paddy McAllister and Nicky Thomas from Harlequins, Aurillac and the Ospreys respectively.
Connacht's 30-20 win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening means that they are the third best placed runners up and will come to Kingsholm for the quarter-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup in early April.