GUINNESS Premiership leaders Gloucester have been forced into changes ahead of tomorrow's west country derby against Bristol at Kingsholm (3pm).
Despite winning 20-13 away to Newcastle two days before Christmas, head coach Dean Ryan has made key alterations for the sell-out Kingsholm clash.
Up front, Carlos Nieto is replaced by Christian Califano at tight-head, Luke Narraway switches to number eight in place of Gareth Delve (knee) and Akapusi Qera returns at openside after recovering from a wrist injury.
In the backs, Rory Lawson returns at scrum-half in place of Gareth Cooper, who damaged a hamstring at Kingston Park and Willie Walker comes in at full-back in place of Iain Balshaw, who has a gashed knee.
Andy Titterrell is also ruled out which means Jeremy Paul comes into the squad for the first time since the end of November and there is also a recall for scrum-half Mike Prendergast.
"It is unfortunate we have players unavailable tomorrow but I don't want that to detract from our preparation - it is up to us to go out and produce a performance - that is the only thing that matters," head coach Dean Ryan said.
"These derby games are very special for the supporters and I think Kingsholm will be a magnificent sight tomorrow with a capacity crowd but from our point of view we approach this like any other game, we will be focused and ready for what will be a very intense occasion.
"We know Bristol are a very good side but it is up to us to get our game right and play well."
Gloucester's forwards have a tried and trusted look to them with Nick Wood and Olivier Azam packing down alongside Califano.
Marco Bortolami will skipper the side from the second row alongside Alex Brown, while Alasdair Strokosch, Qera and Narraway complete the back row as Gloucester look for their 16th successive home Premiership victory - their last home defeat was against Wasps in May 2006.
In the backs, Ryan Lamb, who has signed a new two-year contract extension, will partner Lawson at half-back, while Anthony Allen and Mike Tindall will be the centres.
James Simpson-Daniel, who will make his 100th Premiership appearance tomorrow, will line-up alongside Lesley Vainikolo and Walker in the back three.
Walker's last start was in the number 10 shirt against the Dragons in the EDF Energy Cup in November but he came off the bench against Bourgoin a fortnight ago and scored a try in the second half.
"Tomorrow is about us producing a performance we can be proud of because this game is vital in its own right," Ryan added.
"If we can do that then we are capable of beating teams but it is up to us - we must get it right."
On the bench, hooker Paul, who has made two starts in the EDF Energy Cup, comes into the Premiership squad for the first time this season, as does prop Jack Forster. Will James and Peter Buxton complete the forward options. Prendergast and Chris Paterson (ribs) return to the squad and the final place is taken by centre Leon Lloyd.
GLOUCESTER (v Bristol, tomorrow 3pm): Willie Walker, James Simpson-Daniel, Mike Tindall, Anthony Allen, Lesley Vainikolo, Ryan Lamb, Rory Lawson; Nick Wood, Olivier Azam, Christian Califano, Marco Bortolami (capt), Alex Brown, Alasdair Strokosch, Akapusi Qera, Luke Narraway. Reps: Jeremy Paul, Jack Forster, Will James, Peter Buxton, Mike Prendergast, Chris Paterson, Leon Lloyd.
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.
Speaking to the local media this week, David Humphreys admitted that team selection for Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture at Bath has not been an easy one, with numerous players ruled out due to injury and suspension. However, he pledged that whoever is wearing the Cherry and White will be 100% committed to fighting until the very last minute.
Speaking to GRTV after the 35-13 Aviva Premiership victory over London Irish, Tom Savage praised his team mates for sticking to their game plan and showing real character to clinch an impressive win despite only playing with 14 men for nearly an hour.
With Connacht Rugby the visitors to Kingsholm on Sunday (kick off 3:30pm) for Sunday's European Rugby Champions Cup play-off, Gloucester ring the changes from the side that took the field against Bath last weekend.
Matt Kvesic was a double winner at the Gloucester Rugby End of Season Awards Dinner on Tuesday, coupled with being named in the England Rugby training squad and the 23-year old is delighted with how his campaign has gone.
Gloucester Rugby held their End of Season Dinner at the Centaur at Cheltenham Racecourse this week. Amongst all the awards, Thinus Delport interviewed James Hook, Laurie Fisher, Charlie Sharples and Billy Twelvetrees.