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
Gloucester will field a reshuffled side against the Ospreys in the LV= Cup this weekend, but Backs & Attack Coach Nick Walshe stressed that it's a great opportunity for everyone on duty on Saturday and that maintaining the recent winning run is very important.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees told GRTV after the win in Brive that the game could have been a tough one to get up for, but that his Gloucester team mates did themselves proud on the night and got a big result.
Reflecting on the 31-20 victory in Brive on Thursday evening, Director of Rugby David Humphreys said that clinching a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final was the overall aim and duly achieved.
Gloucester may have already clinched a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys wants his side to finish the pool stages on a winning note in Brive on Thursday evening.
Speaking after Saturday's win, James Hudson was happy to record a bonus-point win against a hugely physical Oyonnax side as Gloucester secured their passage into the European Rugby Challenge Cup Quarter Finals
Billy Burns was a try scorer on his first European start for Gloucester and, speaking after the game, admitted that it was good to get the five points although there are still things to work on before the trip to Brive.
Gloucester Rugby have added to their front row strength in depth for next season with the signings of Paul Doran-Jones, Paddy McAllister and Nicky Thomas from Harlequins, Aurillac and the Ospreys respectively.