Leon Lloyd, Lesley Vainikolo and Olly Morgan will all be involved against Cardiff
LESLEY VAINIKOLO, one of the biggest summer signings to hit the Guinness Premiership, will make his Gloucester debut tomorrow in their first pre-season game against Cardiff Blues (2.30pm).
The former Bradford Bulls star will be one of 10 players involved in Dean Ryan's senior squad of 24 tomorrow for the first time at the Arms Park.
But it will be the presence of Vainikolo that will capture the imagination as Ryan gets the first chance to see his new-look squad in action
"I'll let my actions do the talking. That's why I'm here," Vainikolo said.
"I am looking forward to Saturday, but not too much because I have done that before and not had a good game.
"The coaches have told me to get out there and have fun, do what I do best and see what happens."
Vainikolo will wear the number 11 shirt and be joined in the backs by new signing Leon Lloyd and scrum-half Mike Prendergast, who made the switches from Leicester and Bourgoin respectively in the summer.
Prendergast will partner Ryan Lamb at half-back, while Anthony Allen has been named alongside Lloyd in midfield. Mark Foster and Iain Balshaw will complete the back three alongside Vainikolo.
The forward pack is also strong and Gloucester will be skippered by hooker Olivier Azam. He will be joined in the front row by loose-head Patrice Collazo, who has recovered from a groin injury and Christian Califano.
Jonathan Pendlebury and Alex Brown will be the second row combination, while new signing Alasdair Strokosch will wear six and form a back a back row trio alongside breakaway Andy Hazell and number eight Luke Narraway.
"Our pre-season games have been specifically designed with the start of the Guinness Premiership in mind and we are pretty excited about the combinations we will see tomorrow," said Ryan.
"We have done a huge amount of work in preparation for these two games against Cardiff and Ulster because we want to replicate the pressure and intensity of the Premiership and at the same time look closely at new players in a game environment.
"We are aware of the expectation on guys like Lesley but we are here to manage that for him - I just think it will be great to see him in action.
"I have been very impressed with the attitude and contribution of all the new players and it is time to take that forward now."
On the bench, Ryan has named nine replacements with a five-four split between forwards and backs. Former Sale hooker Andy Titterrell will get some game time at some stage and is joined by fellow front rower Alasdair Dickinson, who joined the club from Edinburgh, Nick Wood, lock Dan Tuohy, who joins the senior squad for the first time and Academy back rower Dan Williams.
Scrum-half Dave Lewis, utility back Will Walker, centre Ali James and England full-back Olly Morgan complete Ryan's options.
GLOUCESTER (v Cardiff, tomorrow, 2.30pm): Iain Balshaw; Mark Foster, Leon Lloyd, Anthony Allen, Lesley Vainikolo, Ryan Lamb, Mike Prendergast; Patrice Collazo, Olivier Azam (capt), Christian Califano, Jonathan Pendlebury, Alex Brown, Alasdair Strokosch, Andy Hazell, Luke Narraway. Reps: Andy Titterrell, Alasdair Dickinson, Nick Wood, Dan Tuohy, Dan Williams, Dave Lewis, Willie Walker, Ali James, Olly Morgan.
Speaking to the local media this week, John Afoa described the hard work that the Cherry and White have been putting in and that he is fighting fit ready for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final clash with Exeter Chiefs.
Gloucester Rugby face Exeter Chiefs this Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final, and Charlie Sharples, who starts at full back is relishing the challenge of the big Kingsholm occasion.
Gloucester meet the Exeter Chiefs for the fourth time in competitive action this weekend, this time in the semi-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. Director of Rugby David Humphreys told the local media this week that this is the sort of game that Gloucester want to be involved in on a regular basis and that he and his team are looking forward to it.
Following the 29-26 loss to Harlequins, club captain Billy Twelvetrees spoke of his disappointment that the Cherry and Whites were unable to cash in on the home side's indiscipline and lose a lead on Saturday afternoon.
Number eight Gareth Evans admitted to a collective feeling of frustration as Gloucester lost narrowly at Harlequins on Saturday, but insisted that there are plenty of positives to draw upon ahead of next Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final at home to Exeter.
Gloucester travel to the Stoop on Saturday afternoon to take on Harlequins in the Aviva Premiership. The Cherry and Whites make just two changes from last weekend's win over Connacht as they seek consistency and continuity in their play as Nick Walshe told the local media this week.
The Gloucester Rugby Ticket office can advise that the club's initial allocation of tickets for the European Rugby Challenge Cup Final has sold out. However, the club has secured an additional allocation of tickets from EPCR which will go on sale on Monday.
Following Saturday evening's exciting European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final victory over Exeter Chiefs, the Ticket Office at Kingsholm will be open on Sunday from 11am to 3pm for Club Members to purchase tickets for the Final.
Gloucester Rugby qualified for their first European final since 2006 as they defeated the in-form Exeter Chiefs by 30 points to 19 in a thrilling semi-final at Kingsholm on Saturday evening. The club photographer caught the best of the action.
Recent meetings between these two teams have often been thrillers, and this was no exception. It went down to the final few minutes, but Gloucester produced the goods when it mattered to qualify for the European Rugby Challenge Cup Final, beating Exeter 30-19.