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.
Speaking to the local media this week, David Humphreys insisted that Gloucester are looking forward to kicking off the new European Rugby Challenge Cup against Brive on Thursday evening, although an unfamiliar opponent and a five day turnaround will pose a challenge.
Director of Rugby David Humphreys felt that his Gloucester side put themselves in a position to put Saracens under real pressure at Allianz Park on Saturday, praising his team's commitment and defence, while admitting that a lack of accuracy hit their chances in the second half.
Speaking to the local media at Allianz Park, Tom Savage was disappointed after the defeat at Saracens, but claimed Gloucester did plenty of good things and could've taken more than a losing bonus point.
In case you missed it, there was plenty of activity on the official Gloucester Rugby website following the 55-0 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over CA Brive, including a number of post match video interviews.
The Cherry and Whites ran in seven tries in beating CA Brive 55-0 on Thursday night. An emphatic second half performance saw the hosts run in five tries to get the European campaign off to a flying start.