MIKE TINDALL will skipper Gloucester against Wasps in their first round EDF Energy Cup tie against Wasps tomorrow (2.30pm).
The England centre will be the only surviving member of the backline that started against Newcastle in the Guinness Premiership on Tuesday as head coach Dean Ryan shuffles his options for his third game in eight days.
Tindall will line-up in the centre alongside Jack Adams, who will make his first senior start of the season tomorrow in the number 13 shirt. Rory Lawson, a high-impact replacement against the Falcons, will start in a half-back combination alongside Ryan Lamb, while there are returns in the back three for Lesley Vainikolo, Mark Foster - who will make his first competitive start of the campaign - and Willie Walker at full-back.
"We have an avenue for people to come into the side and put their hand up for regular selection and that is key for us and the squad," said head coach Dean Ryan. "But we are also in a situation in some positions that players simply have to play because of our injury situation.
"But we can still explore new options and it gives players the chance to press their claims ahead of the Heineken Cup. This is another significant competition, we are playing a side renowned for their spirit and durability and we have to compete."
Gloucester's forward pack has a far more settled look to it. They will not risk Luke Narraway, Carlos Nieto (back) or Nick Wood (groin) who are all out through injury but Olivier Azam returns in the front row alongside props Alasdair Dickinson and Dave Young.
At lock, Marco Bortolami will partner Alex Brown, while Apo Satala will make his first start at number six following the confirmation of his season-long contract this week. Andy Hazell returns to the openside flank and Alasdair Strokosch runs at number eight.
"We are asking certain individuals like the second rows to front up again but I am confident that if we get things right, this is a competition we can do well in. I think the EDF Energy Cup is a great competition but you cannot afford to take your eye off the Guinness Premiership and Europe at this stage.
"We have had to look at our resources over these three games but we want to do well in this competition."
On the bench, Ryan will use a mixture of youth and experience in a four-three forward split. Hooker Scott Lawson may get another opportunity to impress, while prop Yann Thomas has progressed through Gloucester's Guinness A League side. The other forward replacements are Peter Buxton and Adam Eustace, who returns to the matchday squad for the first time since his move back to Gloucester from Llanelli after breaking a bone in his foot during pre-season.
Olly Morgan will be joined by youngsters, scrum-half Dave Lewis and winger Henry Trinder.
There are still tickets available for the visit of Wasps tomorrow and they can be purchased from the ticket office, online at www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk or from the hotline number on 0871 871 8781 (option 2).
GLOUCESTER (v Wasps, tomorrow, 2.30): Willie Walker; Mark Foster, Jack Adams, Mike Tindall (capt), Lesley Vainikolo; Ryan Lamb, Rory Lawson; Alasdair Dickinson, Olivier Azam, Dave Young, Marco Bortolami, Alex Brown, Apo Satala, Andy Hazell, Alasdair Strokosch. Reps: Scott Lawson, Yann Thomas, Peter Buxton, Adam Eustace, Dave Lewis, Henry Trinder, Olly Morgan.
Fly-half Billy Burns was named Man of the Match after the 35-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup victory over Stade Rochelais on Thursday evening, and was full of praise for all his team mates for the win after a short turnaround.
Gloucester have been in good form in recent weeks, but Backs Coach Tim Taylor knows that the Cherry and Whites will have to be at their best on Thursday evening (kick off 7:45pm) against a Stade Rochelais side flying high this season.
Speaking to GRTV after the bonus point win over Bristol, back row Lewis Ludlow revealed that despite a tricky first half, Gloucester backed their skills to come through, a faith that was evident in a strong second half showing.
Willi Heinz scored Gloucester's second try as the Cherry and Whites overturned a disappointing first 40 minutes and 0-6 half time deficit, to earn a 26-18 Aviva Premiership victory over Bristol Rugby on Saturday.
Gloucester's much changed side had to overcome conceding an early try on Thursday evening, but responded in style to down Stade Rochelais by 35 points to 14 in the European Rugby Challenge Cup and set up a mouthwatering return fixture next weekend.
After taking 11 points from their last three games in the Aviva Premiership, including bonus point wins against Wasps and Bristol, Gloucester will be looking to continue their good form when they welcome La Rochelle to Kingsholm.