MARCO BORTOLAMI, the Italian national captain, will skipper Gloucester in their final pre-season game against Llanelli tomorrow (3pm).
The second row will get his first chance to lead the side in the run-up to the opening Guinness Premiership fixture against Bath on Saturday, September 2.
"Marco is not captain for the season," head coach Dean Ryan told www.gloucesterruby.co.uk. "We have a club captain in Peter Buxton but we are continually looking at options that potentially enlarge the group of individuals capable of leading the side.
"Marco is an experienced international player and it will be great to see what he can bring to the role."
Ryan has named a side of considerable strength and will hand a Gloucester debut to Iain Balshaw on the wing. He will be joined by Alex Brown, scrum-half Peter Richards, flanker Andy Hazell, full-back Olly Morgan and prop Nick Wood in their first pre-season games of the season.
"It would be naïve of anyone to think we can operate at the same levels without some of these guys and I am sure they will increase our intensity levels," Ryan said.
"We are a long way down the track in terms of what we want to achieve because these pre-season games have served a great purpose for us. It will be great to see people like Pete Richards and Andy Hazell back with us."
Wood will be joined in the front row alongside hooker Mefin Davies and Christian Califano, who will start at tighthead. Bortolami and Brown are at lock, while Buxton, Hazell and James Forrester complete the break-away trio.
Richards partners Willie Walker at half-back, while Jack Adams and Rudi Keil start in the centre. Balshaw, James Bailey and Morgan complete the back three.
"It's an exciting side and one I am looking forward to see in action," Ryan added. "Llanelli was a great test for us last week and we are anticipating another one tomorrow."
Gloucester will be without James Simpson-Daniel (shoulder), Carlos Nieto (shoulder) and Ryan Lamb (ankle).
They can also confirm that second row Jonathan Pendlebury yesterday underwent surgery on his AC joint in his left shoulder and will not be available for four weeks.
GLOUCESTER v Llanelli (tomorrow, 3pm): Olly Morgan; Iain Balshaw Jack Adams, Rudi Keil, James Bailey; Willie Walker, Pete Richards; Nick Wood, Mefin Davies, Christian Califano, Marco Bortolami (capt), Alex Brown, Peter Buxton, Andy Hazell, James Forrester. Reps: Jack Forster, Luke Narraway, Adam Balding, Will James, Olivier Azam, Rory Lawson, Ludovic Mercier, Brad Davies, Rob Thirlby.
Tickets will be available on the day from the ticket office that opens at 10am.
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.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
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).