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, 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).