MIKE TINDALL will make his first Guinness Premiership start of the season tomorrow when he lines up alongside Anthony Allen in Gloucester's midfield for their clash against third-placed Wasps (3pm).
The England centre has been troubled by a calf injury all season and has so far made only two appearances as a replacement, against Worcester and London Irish.
But he comes into the starting line-up for the table-toppers and will make his 102nd Guinness Premiership appearance.
His return is a significant boost for head coach Dean Ryan, who said: "We have had snapshots of where we think Mike has been previously with his fitness and now we feel he is in a position to start for us in what is a hugely important game.
"We are obviously up against one of the very best teams in the Premiership which is why an individual of Mike's experience, leadership qualities and attitude are crucial.
"I think we have done exceptionally well without him but there is no doubt his return is very important."
Tindall will line-up alongside Anthony Allen, who has missed Gloucester's last two victories over Saracens and London Irish while on international duty with England.
Although he will not feature against South Africa tomorrow, Ryan is thrilled to have Gloucester's newest international available for the club again.
"We are all delighted for Anthony and he acquitted himself really well at the highest level," Ryan said. "He has the support of everyone at the club, was selected for England because he was the form number 12 in the Premiership and I hope he can continue that form for us."
Allen scored twice in the corresponding fixture last season and the centre combinations are the only changes to Gloucester's backline tomorrow.
Rory Lawson and Ryan Lamb continue at half-back, while the back three of James Simpson-Daniel, James Bailey and Willie Walker are also intact.
Gloucester have won six and drawn one of their seven Premiership games so far and Ryan has made one change to his pack following the 22-11 victory over London Irish last Friday.
Loosehead prop Nick Wood comes in for Patrice Collazo and will line-up alongside hooker Olivier Azam and tighthead Christian Califano.
Adam Eustace and Alex Brown continue in the second row, while Peter Buxton, Jake Boer - who will make his 150th Premiership appearance - and Luke Narraway complete the back row.
Buxton will skipper the side in the absence of Marco Bortolami, who is on international duty with Italy.
"Wasps have been the benchmark for the success for almost the last 10 years," Ryan said. "They have produced a raft of top-quality players through their ranks and you have to look at them and aspire to some of the success they have had.
"This side can obviously cause us problems but we are in good shape ourselves and are really looking forward to this challenge."
GLOUCESTER (v London Wasps, tomorrow, 3pm): Willie Walker; James Bailey, Mike Tindall, Anthony Allen, James Simpson-Daniel; Ryan Lamb, Rory Lawson; Nick Wood, Olivier Azam, Christian Califano, Adam Eustace, Alex Brown, Peter Buxton (capt), Jake Boer, Luke Narraway. Reps: Rob Elloway, Patrice Collazo, Jonathan Pendlebury, Adam Balding, Haydn Thomas, Jack Adams, Olly Morgan.
Northampton away was the first Gloucester game under David Humphreys last season, but the Director of Rugby told the local media that the Cherry and Whites are a different proposition compared to 12 months ago and are looking forward to the challenge.
Having skippered Gloucester against the Barbarians last week, Nick Wood once again wore the captain's armband on Monday evening as Gloucester United kicked off their Aviva Premiership A League campaign with a bonus point win at Leicester.
Gloucester recorded a 32-20 win over La Rochelle on Thursday evening, and second row Jeremy Thrush was thrilled to pick up the victory on his first taste of a trip to France and the hostile atmosphere.
Gloucester were forced to battle for their 33-20 victory in La Rochelle on Thursday evening, something that centre Bill Meakes said that he and the squad were well prepared for as well as thanking the travelling support for the part they played.
Gloucester got off to a winning start in the European Rugby Challenge Cup last weekend, but Head Coach Laurie Fisher is expecting a much tougher challenge when the Cherry and Whites travel to La Rochelle for Thursday night's Round Two encounter.
Dan Thomas was a try scorer in the 14-62 defeat at the hands of the Barbarians on Tuesday evening, but told GRTV after the game that he'd really enjoyed taking on the Barbarians and locking horns with Ardie Savea at the breakdown.
After a long, hard battle to return to fitness, Henry Trinder made his long awaited comeback in the second half of the 23-10 win over Zebre on Saturday and admitted he was taken aback by the reception he got from the Kingsholm crowd.
After missing out on Gloucester's two recent European fixtures, Jonny May is back on the left wing for Friday evening's Aviva Premiership fixture at Northampton, while Mariano Galarza is named in the matchday squad for the first time this season.