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 the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
On a tough evening at Kingsholm, Gloucester could escape neither a suffocating Bath defence, nor the whistle of referee Greg Garner as six penalties and a penalty try paved the way to a 39-16 win for the visitors.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).