ADAM Balding is fit and available for selection ahead of Gloucester's Guinness Premiership match against Newcastle following his triple-fracture of his cheekbone.
The Kingsholm number eight could feature in the squad for the first time since September 4 and the opening weekend of hostilities against Worcester after recovering from a sixth minute collision with the Warriors' Drew Hickey that has ruled him out of action ever since.
Head coach Dean Ryan has confirmed Balding is fit again but his involvement is likely to be from the bench against Newcastle should he make the final squad of 22.
"I am not sure what level of involvement I could get but anything is a positive step for me," Balding told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk. "It's been a really hard few months but I just want to put everything behind me and concentrate on getting back in the team.
"I worked very hard during pre-season to get myself in shape but I have never felt in better condition than I do at the moment and my next step is to get some game time.
"Physically and mentally I could not be better prepared and I really looking forward to the opportunity - whenever it arrives."
Balding required metal plates to be inserted into his eye socket and cheek following the incident at Sixways but has since returned to a rigorous training programme with fitness conditioner Mike Anthony.
"I firmly believe that what makes a man a man is his ability to deal with situations, however unpleasant, and move on," Balding added. "I have done that and feel good about myself."
Gloucester will also hope to have full-back Jon Goodridge back in contention following a hip injury, while Jake Boer and Terry Fanolua will continue to be monitored with toe and knee injuries respectively.
Speaking to the local media this week ahead of the Bath Rugby game, Head Coach Laurie Fisher stressed that the fundamental shape of Gloucester's game is in good shape but that the Cherry and Whites have to look after the ball better and make more of their scoring opportunities.
Skipper for the day Willi Heinz faced the cameras after the 13-18 home loss to Newcastle and expressed real frustration at not being able to back up last week's win at Sale, calling it a performance he and his team-mates are not proud of.
Speaking after the game, Charlie Sharples described it as 'the win that has eluded us.' The winger stressed that Gloucester had stayed positive after the first couple of weeks of the Aviva Premiership season and the 26-13 victory over Sale was a result of that focus.
Gloucester Rugby picked up their first win of the new Aviva Premiership season on Friday night, easing to a 26-13 win on the road at Sale Sharks. Director of Rugby David Humphreys was full of praise for his players on the night.
It's a game of small margins at the highest level, and so it proved to be at Kingsholm on Saturday afternoon as two second-half Bath tries earned a 6-15 victory from a game which Gloucester had dominated for long periods.
Greig Laidlaw is back to skipper Gloucester Rugby in Saturday's Aviva Premiership derby game against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm. James Hook will make his first start of the season at full-back and Billy Twelvetrees will make his 100th competitive appearance for the club.