MIKE TINDALL, Gloucester's World Cup winning centre, will return to Guinness Premiership action tomorrow, five months after breaking his leg against Newcastle Falcons (6pm).
Tindall fractured the lower third of his tibia in his right leg during Gloucester's 19-12 defeat at Kingston Park but is back in action against Worcester Warriors tomorrow night as Dean Ryan's side aim to consolidate their position at the top of the Premiership.
Although he missed out on selection for the World Cup, Tindall has continued his recovery process and is raring to get back into Gloucester's midfield.
"It has obviously been a long time coming but I feel fantastic and cannot wait to get back in the side," Tindall told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk
"My rehabilitation has gone really well, I am in contention at the time we always thought I would be and I am just desperate to get back into the team environment to try and play my part.
"Mentally it can be a hugely frustrating time when you are out of the game for so long which is why I am just so pleased to be fit and available for selection again. With the new stand development at Kingsholm it promises to be a very special night and to be involved is great for me.
"It's too early to set any targets - I just want to get some mileage in my legs, pull on a Gloucester shirt again and taste action again - I cannot wait."
Tindall's inclusion is all the more important because of a slight knee injury that rules out Leon Lloyd. Tindall will partner Anthony Allen in the centre as head coach Dean Ryan makes one other change in his three-quarters to the team that started against Saracens last weekend.
Because of the neck injury sustained by Lesley Vainikolo at Vicarage Road, Olly Morgan will start his first game of the season at full-back and Iain Balshaw switches to the wing.
Of Tindall's return, Ryan said: "At the outset of his injury we always had this stage of the season in mind for his potential return and if we didn't think he was ready, we wouldn't rush him back.
"His return is significant because of his experience, big-game value and midfield control - it is great news for us."
In the forwards, Ryan makes only one change. Hooker Olivier Azam starts in place of Andy Titterrell, who moves to the bench. That means props Nick Wood and Carlos Nieto retain their places and Peter Buxton is included in the second row alongside Alex Brown.
Alasdair Stokosch, Andy Hazell and Luke Narraway form the back row.
"Mike Ruddock has given Worcester a bit more licence to play - they are playing a little bit more rugby than they have in the past and are certainly a greater threat," Ryan said.
"Their set-piece has always been strong but to me they are a bit freer and more of a threat. A derby brings with it its own intensity and its own challenges. I don't think either side will say they have played their best stuff in the first two games but are both improving.
"In the first game against Leeds, I thought we were poor in defence but improved against Saracens against a better backline. Individual errors cost us but when we operated within a team structure and organisation, we showed some improvement.
"We need to continue that this weekend and look to get better - hopefully the stadium will be pretty full, it will be a special atmosphere and a great occasion."
On the bench, Christian Califano and Titterrell are the front row replacements, Adam Balding and Jonathan Pendlebury complete the forward options. Scrum-half Dave Lewis, utility back Willie Walker and winger James Bailey comes on for Morgan.
Tickets for tomorrow's game are still available and supporters can purchase them by calling the ticket hotline number on 0871 871 8781 (option 2).
GLOUCESTER (v Worcester, tomorrow 6pm): Olly Morgan; James Simpson-Daniel, Mike Tindall, Anthony Allen, Iain Balshaw; Ryan Lamb, Mike Prendergast, Nick Wood, Olivier Azam, Carlos Nieto, Peter Buxton (capt), Alex Brown, Alasdair Strokosch, Andy Hazell, Luke Narraway. Reps: Andy Titterrell, Christian Califano, Jonathan Pendlebury, Adam Balding, Dave Lewis, Willie Walker, James Bailey.
Defence Coach Jonny Bell admitted this week that the European Rugby Challenge Cup victory in Bayonne was a welcome one, stressed that Benetton Treviso will pose a tough test on Saturday at Kingsholm but that Gloucester are determined to deliver in front of their own fans.
Motu Matu'u is looking to make up for lost time this week as the Cherry and Whites head to Basque Country to take on Bayonne in the European Rugby Challenge Cup opener. The Samoan hooker made his first appearance in the jersey last weekend, and is hoping to contribute to the team this weekend.
Gloucester's attentions turn to Europe this weekend as they travel to Bayonne for their opening fixture of this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup. Forwards Coach Trevor Woodman told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will be aiming to top their pool as they've done for the past two seasons, but is well aware of how tough it is to win in France.
Although understandably disappointed at seeing victory slip away at the last minute, Ben Morgan said after the game at Exeter that there were plenty of positives that Gloucester could take from the game.
Speaking after a last-gasp try from Exeter earned the Chiefs a 27-27 draw at Sandy Park on Saturday, Charlie Sharples admitted to mixed feelings. The game saw him score a try on his 200th competitive appearance for the club, but the frustration from not closing out the win was clear.
David Humphreys was minutes away from a winning interview on Saturday afternoon, but a late try from Exeter Chiefs meant the points were shared at Sandy Park. Humphreys spoke with the local media after the 27-27 draw.
Speaking to the media ahead of Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture away at Exeter Chiefs, Director of Rugby David Humphreys reiterated that there are elements of Gloucester's game that are in good shape at present, that the performance against Bath was a step forward from Newcastle but that individual errors are costing the Cherry and Whites dear.
Centre Matt Scott, a try-scorer in Bayonne last weekend, insists that Gloucester are taking nothing for granted when they welcome Benetton Treviso to Kingsholm on Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup (kick off 3pm).