Prop Patrice Collazo is back in action this weekend
HEAD coach Dean Ryan has made three changes to his side ahead of Gloucester's Guinness Premiership trip to Saracens on Sunday (1.30pm).
Prop Patrice Collazo, second row Jonathan Pendlebury and flanker Peter Buxton return to the side in place of Nick Wood, Adam Eustace and Andy Hazell respectively.
Hazell is ruled out because of a head injury sustained against Leeds Tykes last weekend which means Jake Boer moves to the openside and Buxton comes in on the blindside.
The experienced Collazo returns to the front row alongside Mefin Davies and skipper Phil Vickery, while Pendlebury gets another chance to impress with Alex Brown in the second row.
Both Jake Boer (ankle) and Mike Tindall (neck) have been passed fit to start at Vicarage Road. Welsh Under-21 skipper James Merriman steps up to the first team squad and will sit on the bench.
For the third game running, the back-line will remain unchanged.
Gloucester, who have lost their last four away Premiership matches, will be looking to strengthen their position in the top four and have already beaten Saracens (19-8) at Kingsholm in November.
However, they have only ever won twice at Vicarage Road (in 2002-3 and 2003-4) but Adam Balding acknowledged to www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk that Sunday's encounter is critical ahead of the rest of the season.
"I think in the last few weeks we have become more threatening with ball in hand and have defended in the manner we want to," Balding said. "We have definitely taken steps in the right direction but we need to get a victory at the weekend.
"We know we are capable of winning but it will be a very tough game. Saracens have got some big men, are exceptionally competitive and have a very good home record.
"This is a hugely important game for both teams, particularly with the Six Nations just around the corner. Although we beat Leeds last Saturday, it was a disappointing performance in many ways and something we are desperate to put right this weekend."
The contest could become a shootout between the two leading scorers in the Premiership. Gloucester's Ludovic Mercier currently leads the way with 143 points with Glen Jackson of Saracens close behind on 135.
The Shed bar will screen the game live on Sunday and the bar will be open from 12pm.
GLOUCESTER v Saracens (Sunday, January 8, 1.30pm, live on Sky): Olly Morgan; James Bailey, James Simpson-Daniel, Mike Tindall, Mark Foster; Ludovic Mercier, Peter Richards; Patrice Collazo, Mefin Davies, Phil Vickery (capt), Jonathan Pendlebury, Alex Brown, Peter Buxton, Jake Boer, Adam Balding. Reps: Terry Sigley, Rob Elloway, Adam Eustace, James Merriman, Haydn Thomas, Terry Fanolua, Brad Davies.
Skipper for the day Aled Thomas praised his Gloucester team mates, especially the younger ones, for the way they took on a tough Ospreys outfit and emerged victorious in the LV= Cup on Saturday afternoon.
Gloucester will field a reshuffled side against the Ospreys in the LV= Cup this weekend, but Backs & Attack Coach Nick Walshe stressed that it's a great opportunity for everyone on duty on Saturday and that maintaining the recent winning run is very important.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees told GRTV after the win in Brive that the game could have been a tough one to get up for, but that his Gloucester team mates did themselves proud on the night and got a big result.
Reflecting on the 31-20 victory in Brive on Thursday evening, Director of Rugby David Humphreys said that clinching a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final was the overall aim and duly achieved.
Gloucester Rugby and the Ospreys shared seven tries and 57 points in the LV= Cup at Kingsholm on Saturday. The Cherry and Whites came out on top and the club photographer captured the best of the action.