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 GRTV after the 40-29 Aviva A League win over Wasps Rugby, Academy Coach Rich Whiffin explained his pride in the squad to overcome a strong opponent and book their spot in next week's Aviva A League final.
Willi Heinz returned from injury to skipper Gloucester to a famous 16-14 win over Stade Rochelais on Saturday evening. Speaking after the game in France, Heinz admitted the win wasn't pretty but was full of courage and a great result for the club.
Billy Burns contributed all Gloucester's points in the 16-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening, but dedicated the victory to the whole squad whilst also praising the travelling support.
Speaking after Gloucester's brave 16-14 win against Stade Rochelais which clinches a European Rugby Challenge Cup final spot, Director of Rugby David Humphreys paid tribute to the way the team had executed the game plan in a hostile environment against quality opposition.
Greig Laidlaw returns to the Gloucester Rugby squad this week, and his inclusion is an important one after a serious ankle injury. The Scottish scrum half is determined to drive the team forward in their European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final in La Rochelle this Saturday.
Gloucester take on La Rochelle in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final in France on Saturday evening, with the Top 14 side the favourites in the eyes of the bookmakers. However, David Humphreys is looking for his side to rise to the occasion against a familiar opponent.
Speaking to GRTV after Saturday's 39-30 Aviva Premiership win over Sale, Mark Atkinson admitted that the performance wasn't perfect but that the team's character shone through in a game that could easily have slipped away.
Scotland scrum-half Greig Laidlaw is targeting a 'unique' finish to his Gloucester tenure in the European Rugby Challenge Cup final at the venue where his professional playing career began, BT Murrayfield Stadium (Friday 12 May).