JAMES MERRIMAN will lead Gloucester's assault against Doncaster tomorrow (Friday, 7.30pm) aiming to convince head coach Dean Ryan he is ready for a shot at the Premiership.
The hugely gifted Welsh Under-21 star will face Doncaster in the break-away position of openside in a back row that contains sevens specialists Luke Narraway and Will Matthews.
It will be Merriman's second start in less than a week at Kingsholm following his appearance against Calvisano last Saturday and he is hoping another energetic, tackle-hungry performance can boost his selection hopes before Gloucester make the trip to Worcester on September 4.
"It's great to be picked again and I see this as another opportunity just to try and play well, give it everything and see what happens," Merriman told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk.
"Dean Ryan gave me a chance and I thought it went really well against Calvisano and now I want to try and take this one with both hands. The back row is a very competitive area at Gloucester and that is why I must try and do well - there are just so many really good players and options."
Merriman has suffered all the discomfort he could be expected to take over the last 12 months. Last season was a virtual write-off after he ruptured knee ligaments and was then flown out of the Under-21 World Cup after he required an arthroscopy on a separate knee complaint.
"I went from no injuries at all to a major knee operation and was out for six months," the 21-year-old said. "But I am over that now and I just want to look forward to this season.
"I just want to concentrate on playing my game and helping the team and if anything follows, that would be great."
Merriman will be part of a forward pack that is more experienced than its backs. Terry Sigley, James Parkes and Gary Powell will form a combative front row, while Jonathan Pendlebury and Dan Touhey are the second rows.
Gloucester's victorious Middlesex Sevens skipper Simon Amor gets a run at scrum-half alongside Brad Davies at stand-off. Another sevens member, Anthony Allen, is partnered in the centre by Academy member Ali James. Marcel Garvey and James Bailey provide the cut and thrust on the wings, while Olly Morgan gets his chance to impress at full-back.
Season ticket holders get FREE entry to the game and match tickets are available from the ticket office at the ground on Friday. Call 0871 871 8781.
Doncaster - Friday 19 August - Kick off 7.30pm Free access to the game for all season ticket holders.
Grandstand - £10 (Gold) and £9 (Silver)
Buildbase Stand - £8 (adult) and £6 (concession and junior)
Terrace tickets - £5 and £3 (concession)
(Note - that the majority of Grandstand tickets are already taken by season ticket holders, but there will be availability in the Buildbase Stand.)
GLOUCESTER v Doncaster, Friday, Kingsholm 7.30pm:
Olly Morgan; James Bailey, Anthony Allen, Ali James, Marcel Garvey, Brad Davies, Simon Amor (capt); Terry Sigley, James Parkes, Gary Powell, Jonathan Pendlebury, Dan Touhey, Luke Narraway, James Merriman, Will Matthews. Reps: Rob Elloway, Jack Forster, Kevin Moran, Dean Miller, Ryan Lamb, Chris McNeal, Tom Rawlins
Speaking to GRTV after the game, Backs Coach Tim Taylor was happy with the squad as they cruised to victory over Treviso. The result wasn't in doubt, but the Cherry and Whites laboured to secure a crucial try bonus point.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester Rugby centre Matt Scott is excited to take the field again as the Cherry and Whites look to build on the win in Bayonne when Treviso come to Kingsholm this Saturday.
Defence Coach Jonny Bell admitted this week that the European Rugby Challenge Cup victory in Bayonne was a welcome one, stressed that Benetton Treviso will pose a tough test on Saturday at Kingsholm but that Gloucester are determined to deliver in front of their own fans.
Motu Matu'u is looking to make up for lost time this week as the Cherry and Whites head to Basque Country to take on Bayonne in the European Rugby Challenge Cup opener. The Samoan hooker made his first appearance in the jersey last weekend, and is hoping to contribute to the team this weekend.
Gloucester's attentions turn to Europe this weekend as they travel to Bayonne for their opening fixture of this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup. Forwards Coach Trevor Woodman told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will be aiming to top their pool as they've done for the past two seasons, but is well aware of how tough it is to win in France.
Although understandably disappointed at seeing victory slip away at the last minute, Ben Morgan said after the game at Exeter that there were plenty of positives that Gloucester could take from the game.
Speaking after a last-gasp try from Exeter earned the Chiefs a 27-27 draw at Sandy Park on Saturday, Charlie Sharples admitted to mixed feelings. The game saw him score a try on his 200th competitive appearance for the club, but the frustration from not closing out the win was clear.
Gloucester made it two wins from two outings in this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup as they outplayed Benetton Treviso at Kingsholm to win by 37 points to 8, the bonus point try coming with the final play of the game.