SHOULDER surgery will sideline influential James Simpson-Daniel for three to four months – prompting Nigel Davies to challenge Gloucester's other wings to fill the void.
The 30-year-old flyer had surgery last week to repair shoulder damage – that he had suffered in an 'innocuous' training incident.
Simpson-Daniel limped out of Gloucester's 28-25 Harlequins defeat on Saturday November 3 with a slight thigh strain.
The Stockton-born speed man took that opportunity to have his shoulder issue assessed – hoping it would turn out to be nothing more than a niggle.
But exploratory surgery uncovered a more deep-rooted issue that required immediate repair.
And now the influential wing will miss a large section of the season.
Lamenting the injury blow, Gloucester rugby director Davies explained: "There was damage to his shoulder and that has been repaired.
"And that will keep him away from action for about three to four months so that's a blow to us especially the way he's been playing.
"He's already on the way to recovery of course in terms of rehab, but it's going to be a pretty lengthy process.
"He's been in excellent form in fairness, he had a good pre-season, he was looking fresh and playing exceptionally well, and it's a blow for him as well as us.
"We're hugely disappointed because he's been a big part of what we've been so far."
Wily evergreen wideman Sinbad has been in vintage form once again this term, even drawing calls for an England recall.
The ten-cap international had scotched any real notion of England action, but the early-season clamour indicates his enduring importance to the Gloucester squad.
Typically for Simpson-Daniel though – just as he hits and sustains prime form, injury strikes.
Davies continued: "It was an innocuous incident, and at first it didn't seem very much.
"He hasn't been able to train with it, and he had to have an exploratory operation – that led to a couple of issues that needed sorting.
"It will come back fully and he will be fully fit in the next three to four months, but it takes him out of the equation for that period.
"He just picked it up doing some pad work in training really, and we've had very few injuries in training this year.
"We've picked up a couple in the gym, but most of them have been in games.
"And it's just one of those things."
Backing other Gloucester stars to step up and ease the loss, Davies said it could yet be slightly too soon for a return to action for Jonny May.
Gloucester's fastest man has not featured since the Cherry and Whites saw off Wasps 29-22 at Kingsholm on September 22.
His knee ligament damage has been expected to clear up for a number of weeks now – but despite strong progress the problem continues to nag.
Davies said the 22-year-old remains tantalisingly close to a return, but admitted he does not want to tempt fate by predicting when that will be.
The likes of in-form Shane Monahan, Rob Cook, Martyn Thomas and youngsters Ian Clark and Steph Reynolds should all have chances to shine in Simpson-Daniel's absence.
Davies said: "Now it falls to the next guys to come in and fight hard to make the same kind of impact that Sinbad has for us so far this season.
"We've played without James on a couple of occasions and we've been able to do that, and I've every confidence in the guys who will be stepping up.
"It's been frustrating for Jonny, because we've expected to have had him back earlier.
"But we're just looking at a slightly different direction in terms of his rehab now, I don't want to put any pressure on him but he shouldn't be that far away really."
While back-row battering ram Sione Kalamafoni is fit to return in Saturday's Premiership showdown at Kingsholm against Sale (kick-off noon), Davies said this weekend will be slightly too soon for hooker Darren Dawidiuk.
Kalamafoni has battled past ankle trouble, while Dawidiuk is nearly over his knee ligament damage.
Davies added: "Darren's doing well, maybe this week might be a little bit early, but he's in full training and he should be in consideration for next week."