The top two in Pool 2 go head-to-head at the Stade Pierre Rajon in France. Bourgoin will be buoyed by their 24-17 home win over Ulster and looking for a repeat performance on home soil in the third ever Heineken Cup tie against pool leaders Gloucester.

The Guinness Premiership leaders won 37-18 on their previous success back in January 2004 and have already shown their cup-winning potential with a superb 32-14 victory at Ulster on the opening night.

And coach Dean Ryan will be gunning for a third successive win in the tournament after he rested several star players for the narrow 13-11 EDF Energy Cup win against Newport Gwent Dragons last Friday night.

Olly Morgan will wear the number 15 shirt as Iain Balshaw moves to the wing to cover the absence of Lesley Vainikolo, who has returned to New Zealand for a week because of a family bereavement.

“Our thoughts are with Lesley and his family at this time and the club will give him all the support he needs before he returns to the first team squad,” said head coach Dean Ryan.

“Family is very much central to Lesley’s life and for that reason we respect his wishes to be with them at this time and want his privacy to be maintained. We will not be making any further comment until he returns.”

The rest of Ryan’s line-up remains virtually intact from the one that has seen Gloucester establish a narrow lead in Pool Two – although he is without second row Marco Bortolami (calf) and breakaway flanker Andy Hazell (twisted knee).

Mike Tindall and Anthony Allen will resume their centre partnership having missed the EDF Energy Cup victory over the Dragons and James Simpson-Daniel returns to the wing. Ryan Lamb is partnered by Rory Lawson at half-back.

“We need to combine experience with flair and a cutting edge and we believe this backline provides that,” Ryan added. “We are heading for a confrontational environment, an environment in which Bourgoin have a good record and we must be ready to handle that.

“The pool is very much still alive which is why these two back-to-back games are so important. Preparation has been good, we have learnt a great deal over the last year or so in this competition about how to win games like this and we must put that into practice tomorrow.”

Ryan’s forward pack is also experienced. Nick Wood, who signed a new two-year contract extension last week, starts at loose-head, Olivier Azam at hooker and Carlos Nieto at tight-head.

Peter Buxton will skipper the side from the second row alongside Alex Brown. That allows the tough tackling Alasdair Strokosch to wear number six, Akapusi Qera comes in for Hazell and Gareth Delve, outstanding against the Dragons, wears eight.

“Everyone appreciates the intensity levels of this game and central to that will be the performance of our forwards,” Ryan said. “We have stacked up well in this competition and we must maintain that.

“This is a game we are thoroughly looking forward to as a group because of its significance.”

 Ryan has split his bench four-three in favour of his forwards. Andy Titterrell and Christian Califano will be the front row replacements Will James will cover lock and Luke Narraway the back row.

 Scrum-half Gareth Cooper, stand-off Chris Paterson and utility back Leon Lloyd are the three-quarter replacements