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 the local media this week, front rower John Afoa is familiar with the challenge of Connacht from his time in Belfast, and the World Cup winner is fully aware of the challenge they pose ahead of Sunday's meeting in the Champions Cup play off
Speaking ahead of Gloucester's European Rugby Champions play-off against Connacht on Sunday (Kingsholm, 3:30pm), Director of Rugby David Humphreys admitted that he's glad to have more players available than in recent weeks ahead of a tough fixture.
Nick Wood captained the Cherry and Whites on Saturday afternoon, and the experienced front rower expressed his pride in the young squad in defeat to Bath on the final day of the Aviva Premiership season.
Lewis Ludlow scored Gloucester's opening try in the 30-50 defeat at Bath on Saturday, part of an impressive performance by the young back row forward. Speaking after the game, he paid tribute to the young Gloucester side who went toe to toe with the Aviva Premiership semi-finalists.
Speaking to the local media after the game, Director of Rugby David Humphreys gave an honest assessment of the game, and expressed his pride in the way his young charges had performed against the title-chasing hosts.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester Rugby scrum half Callum Braley is excited by the challenge of the West Country Derby, and the ex-Bristol man reveals the squad will be giving their all.
Speaking to the local media this week, David Humphreys admitted that team selection for Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture at Bath has not been an easy one, with numerous players ruled out due to injury and suspension. However, he pledged that whoever is wearing the Cherry and White will be 100% committed to fighting until the very last minute.
Speaking to GRTV after the 35-13 Aviva Premiership victory over London Irish, Tom Savage praised his team mates for sticking to their game plan and showing real character to clinch an impressive win despite only playing with 14 men for nearly an hour.
With Connacht Rugby the visitors to Kingsholm on Sunday (kick off 3:30pm) for Sunday's European Rugby Champions Cup play-off, Gloucester ring the changes from the side that took the field against Bath last weekend.
Matt Kvesic was a double winner at the Gloucester Rugby End of Season Awards Dinner on Tuesday, coupled with being named in the England Rugby training squad and the 23-year old is delighted with how his campaign has gone.
Gloucester Rugby held their End of Season Dinner at the Centaur at Cheltenham Racecourse this week. Amongst all the awards, Thinus Delport interviewed James Hook, Laurie Fisher, Charlie Sharples and Billy Twelvetrees.