JONATHAN Pendlebury has been rewarded for two outstanding performances in the European Challenge Cup by being handed his Gloucester debut in the Guinness Premiership against Wasps on Boxing Day.
The 22-year-old former Rotherham lock will partner Alex Brown in the second row - eager to stake his claim for even more regular rugby as part of Dean Ryan's side.
Pendlebury's elevation is the major change to the regular Premiership starting line-up for Gloucester's trip to High Wycombe and a venue where they have never won in the Premiership.
He is one of five changes to the starting XV that dismantled Toulon 66-5 in the European Challenge Cup last weekend.
Olly Morgan returns at full-back in place of Jon Goodridge, Mark Foster switches wings to accommodate James Bailey, Patrice Collazo comes in at loosehead for Nick Wood, Phil Vickery is back at tighthead and Andy Hazell returns on the openside in place of Jake Boer.
But Pendlebury, who has served his time in Gloucester's Guinness A League side, told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk "My aim has been to play senior rugby this season and now I want to make a contribution - I don't want to be carried by the rest of the lads.
"The last few weeks have gone pretty well and I have been pleased with how it's gone but Monday's game will be a different test entirely.
"I always thought I could get a chance and now I just want to take it. We know it will be tough because Wasps are an outstanding side but we are all really excited about the challenge we face.
"It is my first start for the club in the Premiership and it probably couldn't come in a bigger game. It's a massive test for everyone. We have been building up for this game in our last two games against Toulon and we will be right up for it."
Pendlebury has Premiership experience with his former club Rotherham but signed a two-year deal with Gloucester in the summer having impressed last season on a trial basis.
He has been a regular in the Guinness A League side this season and made his competitive debut against Toulon in France earlier this month.
Head coach Ryan has otherwise kept the changes to a minimum. He has recalled Morgan to the full-back position and he will make his fifth appearance of the season.
Both Collazo and Vickery return in the front row having been rested last weekend, while Hazell also gets the call at openside in place of Jake Boer.
The only real alteration comes on the wing where James Bailey will make only his second Premiership appearance of the season following his try-scoring effort against Saracens last month in place of Rob Thirlby.
The only major injury concern centred around number eight James Forrester but his damaged ribs have recovered enough to allow him to take his position on the back of the scrum.
"We were on a bit of a role before the autumn internationals and now we are back in the Premiership we have to rediscover that form," Ryan said.
"We want to challenge for the right to win at places like Wasps. They have been one of the form teams in the Premiership for a long time and they are a very tough side to beat.
"But I don't want to talk about records. We have a job to do this weekend - that's all that matters."
GLOUCESTER (v Wasps, Monday, December 26, away, 3pm): Olly Morgan; Mark Foster, James Simpson-Daniel, Mike Tindall, James Bailey; Ludovic Mercier, Peter Richards; Patrice Collazo, Mefin Davies, Phil Vickery (Capt), Jonathan Pendlebury, Alex Brown, Adam Balding, Andy Hazell, James Forrester. Reps: Rob Elloway, Gary Powell, Adam Eustace, Jake Boer, Haydn Thomas, Terry Fanolua, Brad Davies.
As Gloucester prepare for their 39th game of the season, against Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways on Sunday, David Humphreys told the local media that this week has been all about getting the players mentally and physically ready after a tough game against Connacht last Sunday.
Speaking to GRTV after the 40-32 victory over Connacht on Sunday, skipper Billy Twelvetrees explained that Gloucester had had to learn to be patient and cut out the errors to earn the win and progress to next weekend's final play-off against Bordeaux-Begles.
Jonny May's superb late score capped a thrilling 40-32 European play-off win over Connacht on Sunday. The winger spoke afterwards of his team's character and spirit as he looked ahead to one more week of rugby.
Speaking to GRTV this afternoon, Director of Rugby David Humphreys hailed the 'never say die' attitude of the team, after despite not being at their best, fighting back to take a 40-32 win after extra time over Connacht.
Jonny May continues on the wing on Sunday as Connacht come to town, and the England wing explains to the local media this week that he is delighted with his form and is looking forward to taking on Pat Lam's men.
Speaking to the local media this week, front rower John Afoa is familiar with the challenge of Connacht from his time in Belfast, and the World Cup winner is fully aware of the challenge they pose ahead of Sunday's meeting in the Champions Cup play off
Speaking ahead of Gloucester's European Rugby Champions play-off against Connacht on Sunday (Kingsholm, 3:30pm), Director of Rugby David Humphreys admitted that he's glad to have more players available than in recent weeks ahead of a tough fixture.
Nick Wood captained the Cherry and Whites on Saturday afternoon, and the experienced front rower expressed his pride in the young squad in defeat to Bath on the final day of the Aviva Premiership season.
Lewis Ludlow scored Gloucester's opening try in the 30-50 defeat at Bath on Saturday, part of an impressive performance by the young back row forward. Speaking after the game, he paid tribute to the young Gloucester side who went toe to toe with the Aviva Premiership semi-finalists.
Tongan international forward Sione Kalamafoni returns after injury to take up his usual place in the back row as Gloucester look to finish their season on a high against Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways on Sunday.
Gloucester Rugby is delighted to confirm that 18 year old Mat Protheroe, a product of Hartpury College and one of the brightest young talents in the English game, has signed a senior contract at Kingsholm.