GLOUCESTER'S head coach Dean Ryan has reverted to the majority of the squad that established his side as the pace-setters in the Guinness Premiership for Sunday's EDF Energy Cup clash against Wasps (3pm).
Following their 18-18 draw with Newcastle last Saturday, Ryan has responded by recalling a number of players who have the opportunity to figure in the Heineken Cup against Ulster next Friday.
There is a total change in the front row where Nick Wood, Olivier Azam and Carlos Nieto return as the front line of Gloucester's forward effort.
Nieto started the first five matches of the season before a sore back ruled him out of the defeat against London Irish. Azam and Wood have also been key elements up front - Azam has been involved in all the Premiership games and Wood four.
Peter Buxton will skipper the side from the second row position - after a shoulder injury ruled out Marco Bortolami. He will partner Alex Brown, while Alasdair Strokosch, Akapusi Qera and Luke Narraway complete the back row.
"We have to take the game seriously for our own preparation. We want to win at Wasps and we want to have a good feeling again as a group prior to going to Ulster," Ryan said.
"The core of the side reflects the core we'll be using over the coming weeks. It won't necessarily be the selection but the group of players we feel can contribute over the coming weeks - as they have done already.
"The group we come back to now have been playing for seven or eight weeks, so the changes aren't disruptive."
In the backs, Gareth Cooper and Ryan Lamb will get the chance to start together for the first time - Cooper making his first start of the season following the World Cup and a hamstring injury.
Mike Tindall returns in the centre alongside James Simpson-Daniel as Anthony Allen takes a well earned break on the bench after starting every match of the season.
There is also a return for Olly Morgan at full-back which means Iain Balshaw moves to the wing. Mark Foster completes the back three.
"This is a strong group and I am sure both teams will view this as a massive opportunity with the schedules we face in the coming weeks,"
Ryan added. "We anticipate a level of intensity that we will face in the Heineken Cup and we must answer those challenges.
"We are a tight group and we will need to be. This is a significant game for both teams and a challenge comparable to any out there."
On the bench, there is a first appearance of the season for Gareth Delve, who has been in long-term recovery from knee reconstruction. He will be joined by hooker Andy Titterrell, prop Patrice Collazo and lock Will James.
The three-quarter replacements are scrum-half Rory Lawson, utility back Chris Paterson, who passed a CogSport head test this week following a collision against Newcastle and centre Allen. Scrum-half Mike Prendergast will travel as the 23rd man.
GLOUCESTER (v Wasps, Sunday, 3pm): Olly Morgan; Iain Balshaw, James Simpson-Daniel, Mike Tindall, Mark Foster; Ryan Lamb, Gareth Cooper; Nick Wood, Olivier Azam, Carlos Nieto, Peter Buxton (capt), Alex Brown, Alasdair Strokosch, Akapusi Qera, Luke Narraway. Reps: Andy Titterrell, Patrice Collazo, Will James, Gareth Delve, Rory Lawson, Chris Paterson, Anthony Allen, 23rd man: Mike Prendergast.
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.
Speaking to the local media after the game, Director of Rugby David Humphreys gave an honest assessment of the game, and expressed his pride in the way his young charges had performed against the title-chasing hosts.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester Rugby scrum half Callum Braley is excited by the challenge of the West Country Derby, and the ex-Bristol man reveals the squad will be giving their all.
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.
At the recent London Irish game, personnel from the Imjin Barracks in Innsworth, including Gurkhas, were present, holding a collection to raise funds for ShelterBox to aid relief from the recent Nepal Earthquake Appeal.