Big guns return to boost Gloucester's bid

Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees tries to break through the Sale defence, Gloucester v Sale Sharks, Aviva Premiership, Kingsholm, Gloucester, England, November 24, 2012 Getty Images

Jimmy Cowan, Akapusi Qera and Billy Twelvetrees are among the senior players to return for Gloucester's Amlin Challenge Cup rematch with London Irish at Kingsholm this weekend.

The trio missed Gloucester's 29-22 victory at the Madejski Stadium last Saturday but are back as the Cherry and Whites look to maintain their 100 per cent record in Pool 1. Twelvetrees' return allows Freddie Burns to revert back to fly-half, where he partners scrum-half Jimmy Cowan, after the England international filled in at inside centre last time out. Mike Tindall and Rob Cook also come into the Gloucester backline.

Just Jim Hamilton and Tom Savage retain their places in the pack with Qera and Ben Morgan coming into the back-row, Will James joining Hamilton at lock and a new trio of Dan Murphy, Darren Dawidiuk and Rupert Harden in the front row. A fourth straight win in the competition would strengthen Gloucester's claims for a quarter-final place but director of rugby Nigel Davies is taking nothing for granted.

"It's a job that's only half done at the moment," he said. "It was great to come back the way we did last weekend against Irish, but they showed what a dangerous team they are and what they're capable of.

"We really weren't at the races in the first half last weekend, which was a bit disappointing. We've been like that a couple of times this season and have to guard against that. "But it's a great opportunity for us, we've got ourselves into a very strong position and we're really looking forward to Saturday's game."

For London Irish, who will be desperate to keep pace with their Pool 1 rivals, Shane Geraghty starts at fly-half while Guy Armitage returns at inside centre, Kieran Low packs down in the back-row and James Sandford partner Bryn Evans at lock.

Worcester, who top Pool 2 after three successive victories, take on closest rivals Perpignan at the Stade Aime Giral on Saturday evening. Lock Dean Schofield returns to skipper the side in this crucial clash as one of four changes to the Warriors' starting XV. Errie Claassens comes in at fullback while Jon Clarke partners Alex Grove in midfield and Andy Short starts on the wing.

Head Coach Richard Hill said: "The players are on a roll at the moment. We have momentum and that is crucial for us. There is no reason after the hard work of beating Perpignan at Sixways to go to France with half a team. We are going full out and we want to get into the quarter finals of the Amlin Challenge Cup.

"We wanted to play last week, before the rain came down before kick-off, while the French play a very conservative game away from home and don't take too many risks. But at home they will play and we expect to see a very different side to them. Perpignan will keep the ball in hand and we want to do the same so it will make for a cracking game of rugby."

In Pool 4 Bath face Calvisano with World Cup winner Stephen Donald taking the captain's armband. He links up with Michael Claassens at half-back once again while Ben Williams and Kyle Eastmond form a new midfield partnership and Tom Biggs returns to the left wing. Simon Taylor comes in at blindside flanker with Josh Ovens moving to openside and Nick Koster retaining his place at No.8.

London Welsh head coach Lyn Jones makes four changes for his side's Pool 5 clash with Grenoble at the Kassam Stadium after a disciplinary panel awarded them the victory last weekend. The French club won the clash 20-9 on Friday night but later admitted a misconduct charge of fielding an ineligible player. For Welsh Joe Ajuwa replaces Ashley Smith on the right wing, Dan George starts at hooker, James Tideswell packs down at tight-head prop and Alfie To'oala comes in at No.8.