RYAN LAMB will return to the stand-off position for Gloucester's decisive EDF Energy Cup tie against Newcastle on Sunday.
The 22-year-old missed Gloucester's 25-20 victory over the Dragons last Saturday because of a pelvic injured picked up during their Heineken Cup defeat against Cardiff a fortnight ago and is one of six changes to the team named last weekend.
Lamb will feature in an all-new half-back combination with Gareth Cooper after a rib injured ruled out Rory Lawson. Willie Walker, who started at 10 against the Dragons, moves to full-back in place of Iain Balshaw, who replaces Mark Foster on the wing.
Up front, there is a welcome return for loose-head prop Nick Wood, whose last performance was against the Falcons in the Guinness Premiership at the end of September. He has not featured since because of a groin strain.
Andy Titterrell makes his first start since the first game of the season at hooker and will complete a front row alongside Carlos Nieto.
In the second row, Alex Brown returns from a foot injury and replaces Marco Bortolami, who drops to the bench. Brown missed the victory over the Dragons and will partner Adam Eustace.
The back row of Peter Buxton, Andy Hazell and Alasdair Strokosch remains intact from last weekend.
The midfield combination of skipper Mike Tindall and Olly Barkley remains intact, while Lesley Vainikolo completes the back three alongside Balshaw, who has scored six tries in his last four appearances and Walker, who scored a try and landed three penalties and a conversion in the first round of the EDF Energy Cup against Wasps.
"In a lot of ways we are probably working harder on aspects of our game than we did last year," said head coach Dean Ryan. "We have become better at certain things but maybe not felt the benefit of them.
"It's important we don't lose sight of that because we are a good side that is looking for the right balance to become successful over the long term.
"We haven't played as well as we would have liked and we recognise that fact but the positive thing from our point of view is that we can get better.
"We want to do well in every game we play, regardless of the competition and that obviously makes Sunday's game very important. We want to get into a position where we are contesting knockout games.
"There are obviously some injuries in and around the squad but we have a good side available to us."
On the bench, hooker Olivier Azam will be joined by prop Alasdair Dickinson, Bortolami and back row option Apo Satala.
The three-quarter options again include centre Jack Adams, scrum-half Dave Lewis, who featured last weekend and winger Charlie Sharples, who joins the senior squad for the first time this season.
GLOUCESTER (v Newcastle, Sunday 3pm): Willie Walker; Iain Balshaw, Mike Tindall (capt), Olly Barkley, Lesley Vainikolo; Ryan Lamb, Gareth Cooper; Nick Wood, Andy Titterrell, Carlos Nieto, Adam Eustace, Alex Brown, Peter Buxton, Andy Hazell, Alasdair Strokosch. Reps: Olivier Azam, Alasdair Dickinson, Marco Bortolami, Apo Satala, Dave Lewis, Jack Adams, Charlie Sharples.
Speaking after Gloucester's final preseason friendly, a 29-24 defeat away at Scarlets, Director of Rugby David Humphreys reflected upon a performance that will form a crucial part of the Cherry and Whites preparations for the Aviva Premiership opener at Northampton next week.
Speaking to the media after the 45-8 preseason friendly victory over Munster, Director of Rugby David Humphreys wasn't getting too carried away, admitting that his team are making progress but that there's still a way to go.
Billy Twelvetrees spoke to Gloucester Rugby TV on Friday ahead of the pre season friendly with Munster Rugby. The club captain is excited to be back in the action at Kingsholm and experience the atmosphere again.
Gloucester Rugby Director of Rugby David Humphreys spoke to the local media after the 62-19 victory over Yorkshire Carnegie, and showed his delight at the first run out and stated there was still lots to work on ahead of the new season
Mark Atkinson made his first appearance in Cherry and White in the pre season victory over Yorkshire Carnegie on Saturday. Speaking to the local media, he was impressed with the first experience of Kingsholm.
Gloucester Rugby kick off their Aviva Premiership campaign at Northampton Saints on Friday evening, and then return home to entertain the same opponent in the A League at Kingsholm on Monday September 8th.
Gloucester Rugby travelled to West Wales for their third and final preseason game ahead of the start of the Aviva Premiership next week. The Scarlets were the opposition and Gloucester left Parc y Scarlets on the wrong end of a 29-24 scoreline.