GLOUCESTER'S head coach Dean Ryan will welcome back a core of senior players tomorrow when his side clash with the Ospreys in a Heineken Cup shoot-out at the Liberty Stadium.
Ryan is able to include five returning internationals - hooker Andy Titterrell, number eight Gareth Delve, full-back Iain Balshaw, scrum-half Gareth Cooper and winger James Simpson-Daniel.
Titterrell returns after the shoulder problem he picked up against Newcastle before Christmas and comes in for Olivier Azam, who moves to the bench.
Delve returns to the number eight position following a knee injury, Balshaw has recovered from a gashed knee to replace Willie Walker at full-back and Cooper comes at scrum-half for Rory Lawson. Simpson-Daniel has recovered from flu.
"We are fortunate to have some key players returning to the squad," Ryan said. "Tomorrow represents what the Heineken Cup means across Europe - there are some huge contests and ours falls right into the top bracket.
"This is the top end of club competition and we will relish that fact. We have made a very encouraging start in the Heineken Cup but we know tomorrow will examine us and what we can offer this tournament.
"These are the sort of games you want to be involved in as a player and a coach and that is what makes it such an exciting prospect."
Gloucester have taken 19 points out of a possible 20 in the Heineken Cup so far this season and a victory tomorrow will guarantee them a place in the knockout stages.
Lesley Vainikolo was not considered for selection following the death of his father in New Zealand.
Either side of Titterrell will be props Nick Wood and Carlos Nieto; Marco Bortolami will skipper the side from the second row alongside Alex Brown.
Peter Buxton, Akapusi Qera and Delve complete the back row.
Cooper returns following a hamstring strain to partner Ryan Lamb at half-back, while Mike Tindall and Anthony Allen are the centre partnership.
Balshaw, Simpson-Daniel and Leon Lloyd complete Ryan's back three.
"We have a strong squad and we are comfortable with the selections we have made for this specific game," Ryan added. "It gives us dynamism with the option of power from the bench. Bar one or two exceptions, we have everybody available this weekend."
On the bench, Azam is joined by prop Christian Califano. Luke Narraway and Alasdair Strokosch complete the forward options, while Rory Lawson, Chris Paterson and Walker are the three-quarter options.
GLOUCESTER (V Ospreys, tomorrow, 5.30pm): Iain Balshaw; James Simpson-Daniel, Mike Tindall, Anthony Allen, Leon Lloyd; Ryan Lamb, Gareth Cooper; Nick Wood, Andy Titterrell, Carlos Nieto, Marco Bortolami (capt), Alex Brown, Peter Buxton, Akapusi Qera, Gareth Delve. Reps: Olivier Azam, Christian Califano, Luke Narraway, Alasdair Strokosch, Rory Lawson, Chris Paterson, 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.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
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).