Gloucester host Perpignan in their Heineken Cup opener at Kingsholm tomorrow night (6pm).
Get all the pre-match news from Citizen rugby writer Nick Purewal here, with a live preview webchat:
RYAN Mills is ready to take his first-team chance after biding his time and building confidence and form.
The 21-year-old centre takes a seat on Gloucester’s bench for tomorrow’s Heineken Cup opener against Perpignan at Kingsholm (6pm).
The European clash will be the Exeter-born playmaker’s first involvement of the season, after impressing consistently in Gloucester United’s A League campaign.
Rugby director Nigel Davies admitted he has staged Mills’ reintroduction so far, after long-term knee trouble.
Mills has had two bouts of surgery to correct a genetic knee defect, but after missing the majority of last term and then four months in pre-season he is now raring to go.
After claiming a try in Gloucester United’s 44-7 Newcastle Falcons A victory at Hartpury College on Monday night, Mills is itching to step back into the first-team spotlight.
He explained: “I’m feeling good now, the knee is feeling strong.
“Monday was my fifth 80minutes in a row now, I’m feeling good with the game-time and feeling like I’m building some match awareness and a bit of form, which is great.
“It’s great playing with the same boys every week and building a relationship.
“That’s the most comfortable we’ve felt as a midfield combination against Newcastle, with Dan Robson at nine and Tim Molenaar at 13.
“It’s getting used to playing with each other and that’s something we can build on.
“After two ops in two seasons, it’s been 10 months out in total two years, six months last year and four months in this pre-season.
“It’s been hard and there’s been a lot of rehab but I feel really good now and in a good place.”
Gloucester boss Davies has already selected two vastly-different teams to take on first Perpignan and then Munster in the next fortnight.
Rob Cook and Jimmy Cowan return this week, with Huia Edmonds starting alongside Yann Thomas and Shaun Knight in the front-row.
Hot academy prospect Elliott Stooke starts alongside James Hudson at lock, with Tom Savage shifting to blindside flanker – and Ben Morgan not involved in the match squad at all.
Morgan will doubtless then feature out in Limerick against Munster on Saturday week.
But tomorrow Gareth Evans and Akapusi Qera provide the loose-forward cover from the bench.
GLOUCESTER: R Cook, J May, M Tindall, B Twelvetrees, J Simpson-Daniel, F Burns, J Cowan, Y Thomas, H Edmonds, S Knight, E Stooke, J Hudson, T Savage (capt), M Kvesic, S Kalamafoni.
Replacements: D George, D Murphy, R Harden, G Evans, A Qera, D Robson, R Mills, M Thomas.