Simon Amor will play at stand-off against Bucuresti
ENGLAND sevens captain Simon Amor will make his first start of the season on Saturday aiming to fill the boots of Ludovic Mercier in the European Challenge Cup against Bucuresti.
The versatile play-maker will replace the Guinness Premiership's leading scorer - and also inherit the kicking duties for Gloucester's trip to Romania.
Amor will make only his third appearance of the campaign in a vastly changed line-up announced by head coach Dean Ryan.
A trio of internationals - Phil Vickery, Mike Tindall and James Simpson-Daniel - will not travel with the squad, while Andy Hazell will not be risked because of a head injury and Duncan McRae (knee) and James Forrester (ribs) are also given further recovery time.
Stand-off Brad Davies, winger James Bailey and back row man James Merriman are not registered for European competition.
In total, there are 12 changes to the starting XV from the one that won away at Saracens last Sunday but Amor is relishing the chance of extending Gloucester's 100% record in the competition.
"Because of my involvement with the sevens, my last appearance for Gloucester was against Saracens in November and that was at scrum-half, but I am really looking forward to the opportunity this weekend," Amor told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk
"On that day I came on at number nine and it can be quite difficult making the transition between the two positions but we have a lot to play for individually and collectively and I cannot wait for the chance.
"Both Toulon and Bayonne have been to Bucuresti and only just got through with wins so we are anticipating that it will a difficult place to play. Add in the weather conditions and the travelling and it will be tough.
"But there is a lot of motivation for the players involved who have been given an opportunity by Dean Ryan and Bryan Redpath to continue the development of the team.
"In the last few weeks we have got a framework in place and we want to build on that with Bayonne and London Irish coming up. That means we have to continue making progress this weekend."
Amor will line-up at half-back alongside Haydn Thomas but there are changes throughout the side.
There is an entirely new front row with Nick Wood, Rob Elloway and Terry Sigley alongside each other, while Mark Cornwell partners Adam Eustace at lock.
The experience of Jake Boer and Peter Buxton, who will skipper the side, hold everything together with Luke Narraway at number eight completing the back row.
Terry Fanolua and Anthony Allen get chances in the centre; while Marcel Garvey, Rob Thirlby and Jon Goodridge complete an exciting back three.
There is also plenty of experience on the bench where Mefin Davies, Gary Powell, Quinton Davids and Mark Foster will join Mercier, Alex Brown and Peter Richards.
GLOUCESTER (v Bucuresti, Saturday): Jon Goodridge, Marcel Garvey, Terry Fanolua, Anthony Allen, Rob Thirlby; Simon Amor, Haydn Thomas, Nick Wood, Rob Elloway, Terry Sigley, Adam Eustace, Mark Cornwell, Peter Buxton (capt), Jake Boer, Luke Narraway. Reps: Mefin Davies, Gary Powell, Alex Brown, Quinton Davids, Ludovic Mercier, Peter Richards, Mark Foster.
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).