A place in next term's Heineken Cup is on the line on Sunday as Gloucester face Newcastle in the LV= Cup Final at Franklin's Gardens.
A place in next season's Heineken Cup along with domestic silverware is on the line on Sunday as Gloucester meet Newcastle in the LV= Cup Final.
Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath has made two changes to the line-up that defeated the Dragons last week, one injury enforced and one tactical.
With the medical staff having done a sterling job this week, changes are kept to a minimum with the majority of those who participated in the winning semi-final effort retained for Sunday.
Unfortunately missing out due to injury is club stalwart Peter Buxton who fractured his right forearm in the win over the Dragons.
Buxton underwent surgery earlier this week and is replaced in the starting line up by Fijian international Akapusi Qera. Qera's place amongst the replacements is taken by Matt Cox.
The only other change sees Tim Molenaar come in for Henry Trinder in the centre with Trinder dropping to the bench.
With a trophy and automatic Heineken Cup qualification up for grabs, there's plenty to play for and both teams come into Sunday's final on the back of a good run of form.
Gloucester have won ten in a row in all competitions while the Falcons have won three on the bounce. Come Sunday, however, that won't count for much.
“Form going into a cup final really doesn't mean a huge amount but we have to take confidence from the past ten weeks,” said Redpath.
“People don't go into finals with form and reputations. Anyone can win on the day. Look at Birmingham and Arsenal. You can never get arrogant or overly confident, you have to be realistic and honest.”
Gloucester have been given the tag of favourites but the squad have ignored that talk according to Redpath.
“We haven't even talked about it. It's another game. We just need to do our jobs, perform our roles. If we focus too much on the opposition then we'll not play our game. If we do that then the results take care of themselves,” he added.
“It'll be a tough game. Alan Tait will be getting them fired up after their past three wins. They'll be happy after those and they've shown a lot of character. They've nothing to lose.”
Meanwhile, the Falcons have made three changes to the team that snatched a last gasp 21-20 victory over Harlequins in the capital last week.
Luke Fielden returns to the wing, replacing Danny Williams who has failed to recover from a thigh strain. While creative centre Tane Tu'ipulotu gets a start at outside centre with Luke Eves making the switch to the wing.
A strong forward pack will lock horns with the Cherry and Whites with the only change being the introduction of Kieran Brookes for Euan Murray.
“It's not very hard to get the players up for a game like this, and they are all buzzing for it,” Tait told the gathering media.
“We've knocked out the top seeds away from home last weekend, we're in the final now and we are growing as a group. We have put in a lot of hard work over the whole season, and I just hope that we can get something out of it.”
The northeasterners have the upper hand over Gloucester when it comes to head to head matchups this season. Gloucester were defeated 12-6 at Kingston Park back in November, as Jimmy Gopperth nailed four penalties to secure precious Aviva Premiership points.
Tait who will be reunited with former Scotland teammate Bryan Redpath in the opposite dugout, believes his side can bring the trophy back to Tyneside.
“I know their coaches Carl Hogg and Bryan Redpath well – both good lads – but Paul Moriarty has got these forwards firing now. If we can make a battle of it, I'd back us in a scrap,” he added.
“I looked at the Gloucester players, who weren't involved last weekend, and they had five guys in the Calcutta Cup match as well as the likes of Lesley Vainikolo, Dave Attwood and James Simpson-Daniel all out injured or suspended.”
And with the huge carrot of a place in next season's Heineken Cup, the Scotsman acknowledges the importance of Sunday's game.
“People talk about us qualifying for the Heineken Cup if we win on Sunday, which would be a great achievement for the club and it would be amazing to be part of that competition,” he said.
Gloucester: 15 Olly Morgan, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Tim Molenaar, 12 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 11 Tom Voyce, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Jordi Pasqualin, 8 Luke Narraway (capt), 7 Andy Hazell, 6 Akapusi Qera, 5 Alex Brown, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Rupert Harden, 2 Olivier Azam, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Will James, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Tim Taylor, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Henry Trinder.
Newcastle: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Luke Fielden, 13 Tane Tu'ipulotu, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Luke Eves, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Micky Young, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Brent Wilson, 6 Tim Swinson, 5 Andrew Van der Heijden, 4 James Hudson (capt), 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Jon Golding.
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 James Hall, 19 Filipo Levi, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Hall Charlton, 22 Gcobani Bobo, 23 Tom Catterick.
Date: Sunday, March 20
Venue: Franklin's Gardens