GLOUCESTER Rugby can confirm they will play their west country derby against Bristol at Ashton Gate Stadium - the home of Bristol City Football Club - because of Grandstand re-development work at Kingsholm.
Dean Ryan's side will play their final Guinness Premiership fixture against Richard Hill's side on Saturday, April 28 at 3pm away from Kingsholm for the first time and the club are now preparing to make the game a unique event. This will make the rearranged Newcastle match on the 24th of March the last game of the season to be held at Kingsholm.
Season ticket holders will be written to individually once full details of the ticketing pricing and travel arrangements have been finalised but the game is included in the season ticket package.
"To enable us to complete the Grandstand redevelopment in the limited off season we have decided to play the last game of the season, our home fixture against Bristol, away from Kingsholm for the first time ever," said club chairman Tom Walkinshaw.
"We have looked at and visited all the surrounding sports stadia capable of staging such a fixture and the stadium that best suits the needs of our team, fans, and our corporate partners is Ashton Gate.
"It was not a decision taken lightly but we have had tremendous support from the playing department, who have backed us all the way in agreeing to move this fixture to a venue that best suits them and they now need your support to maximise the possibilities such a venue provides us.
"It is vital that, despite the fact we are away from Kingsholm, we make every effort to maintain the advantage we would enjoy from a home fixture. It is with this in mind that we hope that as many of you will be able to come down to Ashton Gate to support the team at the most crucial stage of the season."
Gloucester Rugby have had tremendous support from Ashton Gate Stadium in agreeing to host the fixture and their experience at providing an outstanding alternative venue for Bristol this season, particularly their sell-out against Bath over Christmas, was instrumental in the decision. Doug Harman MD of Ashton Gate Ltd says "We have a long experience of hosting rugby at AG from internationals to club matches and we are delighted to host our friends from Gloucester on this occasion"
Gloucester's head coach Dean Ryan added: "Gloucester supporters have a great tradition of invading grounds and taking them over. One my most memorable days at the club was the 2003 Powergen Cup final when the supporters literally took Twickenham over.
"I am sure that they can make Ashton Gate a home from home and that would be fantastic."
Season ticket holders will automatically receive a ticket for the match and the extra incentive of being able to purchase five additional tickets for non-season ticket holders immediately. Full ticketing details will be announced in due course through a letter to season ticket holders, the website and local press.
Gloucester will be in a position to provide a complementary coach service for season ticket holders and will be limited to a first come, first served basis.
The club are also looking into the possibility of putting on a train dedicated to supporters from Gloucester to Bristol, they are also looking into parking around the stadium and are hoping to reserve some park and ride spaces for the use of supporters to purchase who are wishing to drive.
In an effort to maximise the home advantage for what is one of the biggest derbies in the Guinness Premiership, the ticket release has been designed to maximise Gloucester's presence and will be as follows: Tickets to go on sale on February 22 to season ticket holders for a two week period where they will be able to purchase an extra 5 seats. Tickets will then be available to supporters living in the GL postcode as well as supporters who are on Gloucester's database system as having purchased tickets this season. Finally they will then go on general sale.
To give this west country derby a unique feel, the club intend to make the most of this game and as such all Gloucester season ticket holders will be situated in one stand to increase the atmospherics.
"We want to make this a fantastic event and obviously want as many of our supporters as possible to come and back the team in the very important game," Walkinshaw added.
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.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
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).