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.
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
On a tough evening at Kingsholm, Gloucester could escape neither a suffocating Bath defence, nor the whistle of referee Greg Garner as six penalties and a penalty try paved the way to a 39-16 win for the visitors.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).