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
Previewing Friday evening's local derby at Bristol, Interim Head Coach Jonny Bell told the local media that Gloucester's preparations have gone well and that the whole squad is united in trying to finish the season on a high.
Speaking to GRTV this week, Acting Head Coach Jonny Bell spoke of his pleasure in the efforts and intensity in training from the squad after a tricky few weeks. The team were preparing for big games with Bristol and Cardiff in coming weeks.
Willi Heinz was understandably and visibly disappointed when he spoke to GRTV after the 27-30 home defeat to Harlequins, apologising to the home support as the game slipped away after seemingly having the game under control.
Speaking to the local media this week, Scottish centre Matt Scott spoke of the squad's determination to put in a big home performance against Harlequins, with vital points up for grabs in the hunt for a Top Six spot this Saturday (KO 3pm)
Looking ahead to Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture at home to Harlequins (kick off 3pm), Head Coach Laurie Fisher told the local media that Gloucester will need to be on top of their game in a match which has big implications in terms of top six ambitions.
A big few days for the Gloucester-Hartpury Women side. First came the news that the team will compete in Women's Super Rugby next season, and on Saturday the team will play Worcester Ladies IIs at Kingsholm. Centre Hannah Jones and wing Michelle Ruddock spoke to GRTV this week to reflect on events.
In the aftermath of the Aviva Premiership victory over Bristol, Interim Head Coach Jonny Bell was able to look forward to this weekend's European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final against Cardiff Blues (Kingsholm, kick off 8:05pm).
Missing so many starters, and up against a team fighting for their Premiership existence, Gloucester did what had to be done at Ashton Gate on Friday evening battling their way to a 32-14 Aviva Premiership win over Bristol Rugby.