GARTEH COOPER will start his second Guinness Premiership match of the season at scrum-half when table-topping Gloucester travel to Newcastle on Sunday (3pm).
The Wales number nine comes into the team for Rory Lawson in one of three changes to the side that beat Bourgoin 51-27 at Kingsholm last Saturday.
Marco Bortolami returns to the second row as captain in place of Peter Buxton, who moves to the bench and Alasdair Strokosch starts at number six which means Luke Narraway shifts to the openside in place of Akapusi Qera, who is ruled out with a slight wrist injury.
The rest of Ryan's line-up remains intact for what potentially could be one of the most exciting games of the season between two sides stacked with English talent.
"It is impossible to believe we can operate with the same group of players relentlessly throughout the season because we have been through a very intense period of matches and we are not going to get the best from a guy like Pete Buxton if we simply play and play him," Ryan said.
"We are bringing in an international captain and outstanding player in Marco Bortolami to the second row, Gareth Cooper has looked sharp in his appearances from the bench and Strokosch gives us a work ethic and explosive power we will require.
"Newcastle away from home is one of the most demanding fixtures in the Premiership - they have an outstanding spine to their team and world class players in key areas - it is a hugely important game for both of us.
"I think both teams like to try and play rugby in the right way and that is a great endorsement to both clubs and also the Premiership."
Bortolami's last start was against the Dragons in the EDF Energy Cup at the end of November and he will partner Alex Brown at lock. The front row of Nick Wood, hooker Olivier Azam and tight-head Carlos Nieto remains intact.
Narraway, who has operated at numbers eight and six this season switches to the openside flank, Strokosch comes in at six and Gareth Delve will start his fifth successive game at number eight.
Outside Cooper, Ryan Lamb will wear number 10 and will face Jonny Wilkinson, Anthony Allen and Mike Tindall feature in midfield, while Lesley Vainikolo, the Premiership's leading try scorer with seven; James Simpson-Daniel and Iain Balshaw complete the back three.
The bench is again made into a four-three forward split. Andy Titterrell and Patrice Collazo are the front row replacements and Will James and Buxton the back five options.
Scrum-half Lawson, utility back Willie Walker, who scored against Bourgoin last Saturday and Leon Lloyd complete the three-quarter options.
GLOUCESTER (v Newcastle, Sunday): Iain Balshaw, James Simpson-Daniel, Mike Tindall, Anthony Allen, Lesley Vainikolo; Ryan Lamb, Gareth Cooper; Nick Wood, Olivier Azam, Carlos Nieto, Marco Bortolami (capt), Alex Brown, Alasdair Strokosch, Luke Narraway, Gareth Delve. Reps: Andy Titterrell, Patrice Collazo, Will James, Peter Buxton, Rory Lawson, Willie Walker, Leon Lloyd.
As Gloucester prepare for their 39th game of the season, against Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways on Sunday, David Humphreys told the local media that this week has been all about getting the players mentally and physically ready after a tough game against Connacht last Sunday.
Speaking to GRTV after the 40-32 victory over Connacht on Sunday, skipper Billy Twelvetrees explained that Gloucester had had to learn to be patient and cut out the errors to earn the win and progress to next weekend's final play-off against Bordeaux-Begles.
Jonny May's superb late score capped a thrilling 40-32 European play-off win over Connacht on Sunday. The winger spoke afterwards of his team's character and spirit as he looked ahead to one more week of rugby.
Speaking to GRTV this afternoon, Director of Rugby David Humphreys hailed the 'never say die' attitude of the team, after despite not being at their best, fighting back to take a 40-32 win after extra time over Connacht.
Jonny May continues on the wing on Sunday as Connacht come to town, and the England wing explains to the local media this week that he is delighted with his form and is looking forward to taking on Pat Lam's men.
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.
Tongan international forward Sione Kalamafoni returns after injury to take up his usual place in the back row as Gloucester look to finish their season on a high against Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways on Sunday.
Gloucester Rugby is delighted to confirm that 18 year old Mat Protheroe, a product of Hartpury College and one of the brightest young talents in the English game, has signed a senior contract at Kingsholm.