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
Willi Heinz scored Gloucester's second try as the Cherry and Whites overturned a disappointing first 40 minutes and 0-6 half time deficit, to earn a 26-18 Aviva Premiership victory over Bristol Rugby on Saturday.
It's the first Gloucester-Bristol derby at Kingsholm in over eight years this Saturday (kick off 4:30pm) and, previewing the game with the local media this week, Defence Coach Jonny Bell stressed that, with both teams in the bottom half of the table, they both need the points.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester front rower John Afoa knows the challenge ahead this week against Bristol, and calls on the Cherry and Whites to make the most of home advantage as a determined squad look to bounce back from a narrow loss to Saracens.
Tom Savage speaks to GRTV and the local media as Gloucester went down by 24-20 at Saracens on Sunday afternoon. The second row was disappointed with the result, despite a strong showing from the hosts.
Speaking immediately after the game, skipper Willi Heinz thought that Gloucester had executed their game plan reasonably well and competed hard against Saracens. However, it wasn't enough but the squad will have plenty to work on this week ahead of the derby match against Bristol.
Gloucester may be coming off their best win of the season, the 38-16 victory over Wasps last weekend, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys admits that Sunday's trip to Saracens is an even tougher test.
Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees praised his side's character after their comeback win against Bristol on Saturday. The Cherry and Whites overcame a 6-0 half time deficit to eventually win the game 26-18 and secure a bonus point victory.
Looking to try a new sport? Look no further than Walking Rugby as thanks to Gloucester Rugby you can come along and try out the fast-growing sport at taster sessions across the county, starting this Wednesday.
Gloucester return to European Rugby Challenge Cup action on Thursday evening with the visit of Stade Rochelais to Kingsholm (kick off 7:45pm). Early Bird ticket prices are available until 6:30pm on matchday.