James Simpson-Daniel is back for Gloucester tomorrow.
GLOUCESTER will launch a period of three games in eight days tomorrow and head coach Dean Ryan has made a number of changes for the trip to face the meanest defence in the Guinness Premiership.
After two successive victories over Bath and Harlequins, Gloucester make to trip to Edgeley Park to face Sale Sharks with nine changes to the side that beat Quins 24-20 at Kingsholm last weekend.
"Tomorrow is the beginning of an exceptionally intense period for us and for that reason we have to utilise the strength we have in our squad," Ryan said.
"We are back in the Guinness Premiership next Tuesday against Newcastle at Kingsholm which only gives us a four-day turnaround after tomorrow, before the start of the EDF Energy Cup against Wasps and then we are into Europe.
"I have always made it clear that changes are essential over a season of this length and intensity to remain competitive, we also have some injuries in certain areas and we need to be mindful of our schedule ahead."
Up front, Alasdair Dickinson - a first-half replacement against Quins - starts his first game of the season at loose-head, Olivier Azam remains at hooker and Dave Young comes in for Carlos Nieto, who has been ruled out with a back injury.
Will James's calf injury means Marco Bortolami returns to the second row alongside Alex Brown. In the back row, Peter Buxton will wear six and skipper the side and will pack down alongside Andy Hazell and number eight Luke Narraway.
There are also five changes in the back-line. Rory Lawson makes his first start at scrum-half since the first day of the season against Leicester and will partner Ryan Lamb at half-back, also back in the starting line-up for the first time in a fortnight.
Olly Barkley will continue at inside centre and Matthew Watkins shifts to 13 in place of Mike Tindall, who is on the bench.
In the back three, only Lesley Vainikolo remains from last Saturday's starting line-up. He will be joined on the wing by James Simpson-Daniel, who was rested last weekend, and Iain Balshaw, who returns at full-back in place of Olly Morgan for the first time this season.
Balshaw returned with 55 minutes in the Guinness A League on Monday during Gloucester's victory over Leicester.
On the bench, Ryan has gone for a four-three forward split. Andy Titterrell and Nick Wood cover the front row options, while Alasdair Strokosch and Apo Satala complete the forward options.
Gareth Cooper, Willie Walker and Tindall are the three-quarter options.
"Sale have made a great start to the season, have the meanest defence out there at the moment and are also extremely physical," Ryan added. "When they get all the components of their game operating they are a very good side.
"Our victory last weekend was very important and now we must try and build on it. I am excited about this line-up. If we can get in the right areas of the field I am confident we can be a threat against most sides."
Tickets for Gloucester's next home Guinness Premiership fixture against Jonny Wilkinson's Newcastle are still available from 0871 871 8781 (option 2), www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk or from the ticket office at Kingsholm. The ticket office will be open on Saturday from 9am until 4pm.
GLOUCESTER (v Sale Sharks, tomorrow, 7.45pm): Iain Balshaw; James Simpson-Daniel, Matthew Watkins, Olly Barkley, Lesley Vainikolo; Ryan Lamb, Rory Lawson; Alasdair Dickinson, Olivier Azam, Dave Young, Marco Bortolami, Alex Brown, Peter Buxton (capt), Andy Hazell, Luke Narraway. Reps: Andy Titterrell, Nick Wood, Alasdair Strokosch, Apo Satala, Gareth Cooper, Mike Tindall, Willie Walker.
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
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.
On a tough evening at Kingsholm, Gloucester could escape neither a suffocating Bath defence, nor the whistle of referee Greg Garner as six penalties and a penalty try paved the way to a 39-16 win for the visitors.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).