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.
Defence Coach Jonny Bell admitted this week that the European Rugby Challenge Cup victory in Bayonne was a welcome one, stressed that Benetton Treviso will pose a tough test on Saturday at Kingsholm but that Gloucester are determined to deliver in front of their own fans.
Motu Matu'u is looking to make up for lost time this week as the Cherry and Whites head to Basque Country to take on Bayonne in the European Rugby Challenge Cup opener. The Samoan hooker made his first appearance in the jersey last weekend, and is hoping to contribute to the team this weekend.
Gloucester's attentions turn to Europe this weekend as they travel to Bayonne for their opening fixture of this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup. Forwards Coach Trevor Woodman told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will be aiming to top their pool as they've done for the past two seasons, but is well aware of how tough it is to win in France.
Although understandably disappointed at seeing victory slip away at the last minute, Ben Morgan said after the game at Exeter that there were plenty of positives that Gloucester could take from the game.
Speaking after a last-gasp try from Exeter earned the Chiefs a 27-27 draw at Sandy Park on Saturday, Charlie Sharples admitted to mixed feelings. The game saw him score a try on his 200th competitive appearance for the club, but the frustration from not closing out the win was clear.
David Humphreys was minutes away from a winning interview on Saturday afternoon, but a late try from Exeter Chiefs meant the points were shared at Sandy Park. Humphreys spoke with the local media after the 27-27 draw.
Speaking to the media ahead of Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture away at Exeter Chiefs, Director of Rugby David Humphreys reiterated that there are elements of Gloucester's game that are in good shape at present, that the performance against Bath was a step forward from Newcastle but that individual errors are costing the Cherry and Whites dear.
Centre Matt Scott, a try-scorer in Bayonne last weekend, insists that Gloucester are taking nothing for granted when they welcome Benetton Treviso to Kingsholm on Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup (kick off 3pm).