CARLOS NIETO, the Italian tight-head prop, will make his first Gloucester start tomorrow against Leinster in the Heineken Cup at Lansdowne Road (5.30pm).
The set-piece specialist will also make his Heineken Cup debut after successfully returning from a shoulder injury in Gloucester's 33-24 victory over Worcester in the Guinness Premiership last Friday.
Nieto will line-up in an all-international front row alongside Welshman Mefin Davies and loose-head Christian Califano, who has 33 European Cup games to his name after spells with Toulouse and Agen and replaces Nick Wood.
"The fact that Nick Wood is not starting is not a selection issue because all the three props will play a significant part in the game," head coach Dean Ryan told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk
"I have been delighted with Nick's form - he has been fantastic for us this season - but a little bit of extra experience will be crucial."
Ryan is also able to welcome back Italian skipper Marco Bortolami in the second row and he will partner Adam Eustace, who has made 21 competition appearances.
The back row trio of Peter Buxton, breakaway Andy Hazell and number eight James Forrester, who was named September's Guinness Premiership player of the month, is unchanged.
There is also continuity to the backline and it remains unchanged from the one that triumphed at Sixways.
The only alteration comes on the bench, where Rudi Keil is preferred to Mike Tindall, who has yet to fully shake off a calf injury. Explaining the decision, Ryan added: "Last Friday was an indicator of where we felt Mike was with his calf injury and at the moment we feel we don't want to risk him in a Heineken Cup match of this intensity."
In the backs, four players will be making their debuts. Stand-off Ryan Lamb, centres Jack Adams and Anthony Allen (all 20) and wing Mark Foster will gain their first experience in the competition.
Full-back Iain Balshaw has made 19 appearances in the competition for Bath, while Peter Richards has played for four different clubs in the European Cup.
"Being part of this tournament was a reward for what we managed to achieve last season," Ryan said of his Challenge Cup victors. "I don't think there is any greater stage than Lansdowne Road in the Heineken Cup and it will obviously be a huge test for this team.
"In my opinion they produced the performance of the tournament last year when they beat Toulouse away and we obviously have a team with a low percentage of players who have been exposed to this competition.
"It will be an enormous challenge but I am sure we are capable of winning - I am sure we will learn more about this group on Saturday - it's a fantastic opportunity for everybody."
GLOUCESTER v (Leinster, tomorrow, Lansdowne Road, 5.30pm): Iain Balshaw; James Bailey, Jack Adams, Anthony Allen, Mark Foster; Ryan Lamb, Peter Richards; Christian Califano, Mefin Davies, Carlos Nieto, Marco Bortolami (capt), Adam Eustace, Peter Buxton, Andy Hazell, James Forrester. Reps: Nick Wood, Olivier Azam, Jonathan Pendlebury, Jake Boer, Rory Lawson, Ludovic Mercier, Rudi Keil.
Speaking to the local media this week, front rower John Afoa is familiar with the challenge of Connacht from his time in Belfast, and the World Cup winner is fully aware of the challenge they pose ahead of Sunday's meeting in the Champions Cup play off
Speaking ahead of Gloucester's European Rugby Champions play-off against Connacht on Sunday (Kingsholm, 3:30pm), Director of Rugby David Humphreys admitted that he's glad to have more players available than in recent weeks ahead of a tough fixture.
Nick Wood captained the Cherry and Whites on Saturday afternoon, and the experienced front rower expressed his pride in the young squad in defeat to Bath on the final day of the Aviva Premiership season.
Lewis Ludlow scored Gloucester's opening try in the 30-50 defeat at Bath on Saturday, part of an impressive performance by the young back row forward. Speaking after the game, he paid tribute to the young Gloucester side who went toe to toe with the Aviva Premiership semi-finalists.
Speaking to the local media after the game, Director of Rugby David Humphreys gave an honest assessment of the game, and expressed his pride in the way his young charges had performed against the title-chasing hosts.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester Rugby scrum half Callum Braley is excited by the challenge of the West Country Derby, and the ex-Bristol man reveals the squad will be giving their all.
Speaking to the local media this week, David Humphreys admitted that team selection for Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture at Bath has not been an easy one, with numerous players ruled out due to injury and suspension. However, he pledged that whoever is wearing the Cherry and White will be 100% committed to fighting until the very last minute.
Speaking to GRTV after the 35-13 Aviva Premiership victory over London Irish, Tom Savage praised his team mates for sticking to their game plan and showing real character to clinch an impressive win despite only playing with 14 men for nearly an hour.
With Connacht Rugby the visitors to Kingsholm on Sunday (kick off 3:30pm) for Sunday's European Rugby Champions Cup play-off, Gloucester ring the changes from the side that took the field against Bath last weekend.
Matt Kvesic was a double winner at the Gloucester Rugby End of Season Awards Dinner on Tuesday, coupled with being named in the England Rugby training squad and the 23-year old is delighted with how his campaign has gone.
Gloucester Rugby held their End of Season Dinner at the Centaur at Cheltenham Racecourse this week. Amongst all the awards, Thinus Delport interviewed James Hook, Laurie Fisher, Charlie Sharples and Billy Twelvetrees.