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 after the 37-8 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Benetton Treviso, James Hook admitted that the Italian side made things tough for Gloucester at times but that the Cherry and Whites are happy to take the bonus point win and turn their focus to Northampton next week.
Speaking to GRTV after the game, Backs Coach Tim Taylor was happy with the squad as they cruised to victory over Treviso. The result wasn't in doubt, but the Cherry and Whites laboured to secure a crucial try bonus point.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester Rugby centre Matt Scott is excited to take the field again as the Cherry and Whites look to build on the win in Bayonne when Treviso come to Kingsholm this Saturday.
Defence Coach Jonny Bell admitted this week that the European Rugby Challenge Cup victory in Bayonne was a welcome one, stressed that Benetton Treviso will pose a tough test on Saturday at Kingsholm but that Gloucester are determined to deliver in front of their own fans.
Motu Matu'u is looking to make up for lost time this week as the Cherry and Whites head to Basque Country to take on Bayonne in the European Rugby Challenge Cup opener. The Samoan hooker made his first appearance in the jersey last weekend, and is hoping to contribute to the team this weekend.
Gloucester's attentions turn to Europe this weekend as they travel to Bayonne for their opening fixture of this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup. Forwards Coach Trevor Woodman told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will be aiming to top their pool as they've done for the past two seasons, but is well aware of how tough it is to win in France.
Although understandably disappointed at seeing victory slip away at the last minute, Ben Morgan said after the game at Exeter that there were plenty of positives that Gloucester could take from the game.
Gloucester made it two wins from two outings in this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup as they outplayed Benetton Treviso at Kingsholm to win by 37 points to 8, the bonus point try coming with the final play of the game.