HEAD coach Dean Ryan has named an exciting line-up for Gloucester's last pre-season game against Ulster at Ravenhill tomorrow (6.30pm).
A number of Gloucester's key players - James Simpson-Daniel, Olly Morgan, Pete Buxton and Carlos Nieto will get their first starts of the season as Ryan takes another opportunity to look over options ahead of the start of the Guinness Premiership against Leeds a week on Sunday.
"We have a few players we want to see play again and we also have guys still getting used to the systems we have in place," Ryan said.
"Cardiff were further down the line than us a fortnight ago but I want to see us being more competitive in a lot of areas. I was disappointed with aspects of that performance and we need to see an improvement.
"We appreciate the significance of this game, we have plenty to get out of it and we have another exciting side.
"It is still pre-season, but we've got to have some strong indicators that we are physically ready and mentally able to compete further down the line with the kind of systems we want to run."
Up front, Andy Titterrell will start his first game at hooker and either side of him at prop will be Nick Wood at loose-head and Carlos Nieto, who was ruled out of Italy's World Cup squad through injury, at tight-head.
In the second row, Jonathan Pendlebury will partner Dan Tuohy, while Peter Buxton returns to the blindside flank following his broken thumb in the Guinness Premiership final. Andy Hazell retains the openside position and there is also a return for Adam Balding at number eight following a knee injury.
"We are aware of how important guys like Pete Buxton and Adam Balding are to us physically and it is pleasing they will get some game-time ahead of the Premiership," Ryan added.
Ryan has also shifted his backline around to look at fresh combinations which means Willie Walker will partner Mike Prendergast at half-back.
Anthony Allen, one of Gloucester's stand-out performers against Cardiff, will be in midfield alongside James Simpson-Daniel which gives Lesley Vainikolo another opportunity on the wing.
The back three is completed by James Bailey and Olly Morgan at full-back.
Gloucester will travel with nine replacements that are split into a five-four forward split. There is an entire front row option of Olivier Azam and props Alasdair Dickinson and Patrice Collazo and back rowers Luke Narraway and Alsadair Strokosch.
Scrum-half Dave Lewis is also included alongside Ryan Lamb, while Leon Lloyd and Iain Balshaw complete Ryan's options.
GLOUCESTER v Ulster, tomorrow (6.30pm): Olly Morgan, James Bailey, James Simpson-Daniel, Anthony Allen, Lesley Vainikolo, Willie Walker, Mike Prendergast; Nick Wood, Andy Titterrell, Carlos Nieto, Jonathan Pendlebury, Dan Tuohy, Peter Buxton (capt), Andy Hazell, Adam Balding. Reps: Olivier Azam, Alasdair Dickinson, Patrice Collazo, Luke Narraway, Alasdair Strokosch, Dave Lewis, Ryan Lamb, Leon Lloyd, Iain Balshaw.
Gloucester-Hartpury Women take on West Park Leeds Ladies in the final of the Intermediate Cup at Royal Wootton Bassett RFC on Saturday. Rebecca de Filippo and Gemma Sharples took time out from training to preview the game.
Speaking to the local media this week, front row forward John Afoa spoke of the squad's targets for this weekend's European Rugby Challenge Cup Quarter Final with Cardiff Blues at Kingsholm. Despite taking on new opponents, the squad know the focus is on themselves to get the job done as knockout rugby kicks in.
Gloucester-Hartpury Women take on West Park Leeds Ladies in the final of the Intermediate Cup Final on Saturday. Head Coach Susie Appleby took time out to preview the game and chat about the future for the team.
Number eight Ben Morgan admitted that the 32-14 Aviva Premiership win over Bristol on Friday evening hadn't been pretty at times, but that the win was based on everyone in the squad remaining united and working for each other.
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.
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).