Gloucester welcome Bristol Bears to Kingsholm for Friday’s Premiership fixture and make three changes to their starting XV, all in the pack.
It’s the second West Country derby in succession for the Cherry and Whites who drew 31-31 against Bath at the Rec last weekend.
Set to make their first competitive starts for Gloucester are the South African summer signings of Franco Marais (hooker) and Gerbrandt Grobler (second-row). The final change sees Jake Polledri come into the back-row with Ruan Ackermann switching from the flank to number eight.
Head coach Johan Ackermann admitted that last weekend’s game at Bath had been an eventful one, but a good learning experience.
“There were some highlights and some low moments. We were in control and then let it slip, but credit to the players for coming back and getting three points out of the game,” he said.
“As a group we learned a lot. We didn’t respect the ball enough, we lost possession in contact, we tried to force offloads. And one or two skill errors cost us, not just in terms of momentum but because they (Bath) got points from them.”
But this weekend, Bristol Bears are the opposition and Ackermann admits that last year’s promotion winners are acquitting themselves well in the Premiership.
“There is a bit more footage on them now that we can analyse, look at their strengths and see if there are any areas that we can hopefully exploit. But they’ve already shown what we knew before the season started – that they’ve going to be highly competitive, well coached and with a lot of X factor across the board,” he added.
“They’ve proved that at Saracens last weekend, they proved it in round one. They’re not here just to make up numbers in the competition, they’ve made it quite clear they want to stay in the Premiership and they’ve going to be highly motivated and very tough to beat. We’ll obviously have to be at our best.”
Meanwhile, Bristol – who fell to defeat at the hands of Saracens last weekend – make nine changes ahead of the Premiership encounter.
Harry Randall lines up against his former club in his first competitive start, while Tusi Pisi and Ian Madigan also return to the backline.
Ryan Edwards is named in place of Alapati Leiua (back), who is unavailable for selection.
In the pack, Yann Thomas, Shaun Malton and John Afoa all come in, with Malton set for his first start in a Bears jersey.
Joe Joyce makes his maiden start of the new campaign in the engine room, alongside Chris Vui, who recovers from a groin injury.
Head coach Pat Lam said: “We’ve put a focus on our execution and making sure our teamwork is spot on. Gloucester have started the season strongly so that teamwork will be vital for us to compete at Kingsholm.
“We love these games; it tests us a group. When you go away from home, you have to be united as a team and there’s an excitement about Friday night.”
Bristol maintain a five forwards and three backs split on the bench, with new loan signing Zane Kirchner listed among the replacements.
Form: Gloucester have made an unbeaten start to a new Gallagher Rugby campaign for the first time since 2016/17. Gloucester’s only defeat in their last four home games in all tournaments was to Bath in round 21 last season. Bristol Bears six game winning run in all competitions ended at Saracens last weekend. The Bears have not won away from home in Premiership Rugby since beating Sale by a single point in Salford on New Year’s Day 2017. Gloucester’s only defeat in their last seven fixtures with Bristol was 26-29 at Memorial Stadium in February 2008.
Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Ed Slater (c), 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Freddie Clarke, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Tom Hudson
Bristol: 15 Piers O’Conor, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Tusi Pisi, 11 Ryan Edwards, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Jack Lam, 7 George Smith, 6 Steve Luatua (c), 5 Chris Vui, 4 Joe Joyce, 3 John Afoa, 2 Shaun Malton, 1 Yann Thomas Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Jake Armstrong, 19 Ed Holmes, 20 Nick Haining, 21 Nic Stirzaker, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Zane Kirchner
Date: Friday, September 14 Venue: Kingsholm Kick-off: 19:45 BST (18:45 GMT) Referee: Tom Foley Assistant referees: Wayne Falla, Adam Leal Television match official: Sean Davey
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