LESLEY VAINIKOLO has been ruled out of tomorrow's Guinness Premiership showdown against European champions Wasps because of a knee injury.
The giant winger, who is the Premiership's leading try-scorer with seven in five appearances, suffered a blow to his left knee against Ulster last week and is not considered for selection.
"Les took a bang to the knee last week and although the injury is not that serious it will prevent him playing against Wasps," said Gloucester's head coach Dean Ryan.
"It's not a long-term issue and he will link up with England as planned. It is obviously a significant blow to us but we are not going to take risks with a player like Les. In a season of this length and intensity you pick up injuries - we just have to manage that."
Ryan has been forced into a series of changes tomorrow and will unveil a new second row combination because of injuries to Alex Brown (arm) and Marco Bortolami (eye socket).
But there is a return for flanker Andy Hazell, who has been out of action since the end of November with knee trouble. He comes in on the openside flank for Akapusi Qera, who was not considered for selection because of a sceptic cut on his hand.
"Andy is a fantastic servant to this club - a Gloucester man who understands the significance of wearing a Gloucester shirt - and he brings a huge level intensity and desire to our efforts," Ryan said.
"We are fortunate to have great options in our pack but Andy's return is very timely and it will be fantastic to see him involved again."
Hazell will pack down alongside Luke Narraway at six and Gareth Delve at eight. Peter Buxton will skipper the side from the second row alongside Will James.
The front row of Nick Wood, Olivier Azam and Carlos Nieto remains unchanged.
There are also changes in the backline. With Vainikolo out, Iain Balshaw switches to the wing and Willie Walker comes in at full-back. Anthony Allen, who has featured in 17 of Gloucester's 18 matches this term, moves to the bench which means James Simpson-Daniel comes into the centre to partner Mike Tindall.
Replacing Simpson-Daniel on the wing is James Bailey, who will make his fifth Premiership appearance of the season.
Rory Lawson and Ryan Lamb are the half-backs.
"There are some changes and we have obviously been disrupted by injuries but I think our set-up is exciting and carries a lot of potential," Ryan added. "We are obviously aware of what Wasps represent and are expecting a reaction from their defeat last weekend.
"This is traditionally the stage of the season where they come into their own - they are a fantastic side full of fantastic players and we know we will have to be very competitive to win."
On the bench, Jeremy Paul and Patrice Collazo are the front row options, lock Dan Tuohy comes into the squad for the first time this season and Alasdair Strokosch completes the forwards.
Gareth Cooper, Allen and Mark Foster are Gloucester's three-quarter options. Chris Paterson is ruled out with a dead leg.
GLOUCESTER (v Wasps, tomorrow, 3pm): Willie Walker, Iain Balshaw, James Simpson-Daniel, Mike Tindall, James Bailey; Ryan Lamb, Rory Lawson; Nick Wood, Olivier Azam, Carlos Nieto, Peter Buxton (capt), Will James, Luke Narraway, Andy Hazell, Gareth Delve. Reps: Jeremy Paul, Patrice Collazo, Dan Tuohy, Alasdair Strokosch, Gareth Cooper, Anthony Allen, Mark Foster.
Speaking to the local media this week, John Afoa described the hard work that the Cherry and White have been putting in and that he is fighting fit ready for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final clash with Exeter Chiefs.
Gloucester Rugby face Exeter Chiefs this Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final, and Charlie Sharples, who starts at full back is relishing the challenge of the big Kingsholm occasion.
Gloucester meet the Exeter Chiefs for the fourth time in competitive action this weekend, this time in the semi-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. Director of Rugby David Humphreys told the local media this week that this is the sort of game that Gloucester want to be involved in on a regular basis and that he and his team are looking forward to it.
Following the 29-26 loss to Harlequins, club captain Billy Twelvetrees spoke of his disappointment that the Cherry and Whites were unable to cash in on the home side's indiscipline and lose a lead on Saturday afternoon.
Number eight Gareth Evans admitted to a collective feeling of frustration as Gloucester lost narrowly at Harlequins on Saturday, but insisted that there are plenty of positives to draw upon ahead of next Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final at home to Exeter.
Gloucester travel to the Stoop on Saturday afternoon to take on Harlequins in the Aviva Premiership. The Cherry and Whites make just two changes from last weekend's win over Connacht as they seek consistency and continuity in their play as Nick Walshe told the local media this week.
The Gloucester Rugby Ticket office can advise that the club's initial allocation of tickets for the European Rugby Challenge Cup Final has sold out. However, the club has secured an additional allocation of tickets from EPCR which will go on sale on Monday.
Following Saturday evening's exciting European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final victory over Exeter Chiefs, the Ticket Office at Kingsholm will be open on Sunday from 11am to 3pm for Club Members to purchase tickets for the Final.
Gloucester Rugby qualified for their first European final since 2006 as they defeated the in-form Exeter Chiefs by 30 points to 19 in a thrilling semi-final at Kingsholm on Saturday evening. The club photographer caught the best of the action.
Recent meetings between these two teams have often been thrillers, and this was no exception. It went down to the final few minutes, but Gloucester produced the goods when it mattered to qualify for the European Rugby Challenge Cup Final, beating Exeter 30-19.