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.
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
On a tough evening at Kingsholm, Gloucester could escape neither a suffocating Bath defence, nor the whistle of referee Greg Garner as six penalties and a penalty try paved the way to a 39-16 win for the visitors.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).