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 to GRTV after the 40-29 Aviva A League win over Wasps Rugby, Academy Coach Rich Whiffin explained his pride in the squad to overcome a strong opponent and book their spot in next week's Aviva A League final.
Willi Heinz returned from injury to skipper Gloucester to a famous 16-14 win over Stade Rochelais on Saturday evening. Speaking after the game in France, Heinz admitted the win wasn't pretty but was full of courage and a great result for the club.
Billy Burns contributed all Gloucester's points in the 16-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening, but dedicated the victory to the whole squad whilst also praising the travelling support.
Speaking after Gloucester's brave 16-14 win against Stade Rochelais which clinches a European Rugby Challenge Cup final spot, Director of Rugby David Humphreys paid tribute to the way the team had executed the game plan in a hostile environment against quality opposition.
Greig Laidlaw returns to the Gloucester Rugby squad this week, and his inclusion is an important one after a serious ankle injury. The Scottish scrum half is determined to drive the team forward in their European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final in La Rochelle this Saturday.
Gloucester take on La Rochelle in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final in France on Saturday evening, with the Top 14 side the favourites in the eyes of the bookmakers. However, David Humphreys is looking for his side to rise to the occasion against a familiar opponent.
Speaking to GRTV after Saturday's 39-30 Aviva Premiership win over Sale, Mark Atkinson admitted that the performance wasn't perfect but that the team's character shone through in a game that could easily have slipped away.