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Latta to make first start in Zebre as Gloucester seek sixth pool win

Second row Joe Latta will make his first competitive start for Gloucester Rugby as the Cherry and Whites seek to make it six wins from six in the pool stages of the European Rugby Challenge Cup when they take on Zebre in Parma on Saturday.

Latta joined Gloucester back in the Autumn from the Highlanders and has featured in the A League on several occasions as well as against the Barbarians. He made his first team bow as a replacement against La Rochelle last weekend but this will be his first competitive start.

Latta's start is one of seven changes to the side that started against La Rochelle last weekend as Bill Meakes, Steve McColl, Willi Heinz, Tom Lindsay, Paul Doran-Jones and Ben Morgan all return.

Named amongst the replacements is Gareth Evans, who makes the matchday squad for the first time since being injured in the club's final preseason friendly.

Gloucester have already clinched the group and secured a home quarter-final but will come up against a Zebre side who still hope to qualify for the knockout stages themselves as one of the best three second placed teams.

As such, despite Gloucester performing well in the group to date, Director of Rugby David Humphreys acknowledged that the Italian side will be far from a pushover in Parma this weekend.

"It's nice to go into the final game with the home quarter-final achieved last week as that was one of the goals that we set ourselves at the start of the year.

"But we're conscious of the fact that we're on a good winning run in Europe and want to continue that. We want to give ourselves the opportunity to be seeded one or two with the impact that may have going into the knockout stages so there's still a huge amount at stake.

"This could well be our toughest game of the pool. When you look at Zebre now compared to where they were when we played them 12 months ago, they've won a number of games in the Pro 12 and have been very competitive in Europe.

"Their development is reflected in having 13 players named in the Italy squad for the Six Nations this week. So that shows they have a lot of experience, a lot of quality. They've become a lot more competitive at home and I'm sure they'll want to finish this European competition on a high.”

Gloucester Rugby:
15. Rob Cook; 14. David Halaifonua, 13. Bill Meakes, 12. Mark Atkinson, 11. Steve McColl; 10. Billy Burns, 9. Willi Heinz; 1. Yann Thomas, 2. Tom Lindsay, 3. Paul Doran-Jones; 4. Joe Latta, 5. Mariano Galarza; 6. Lewis Ludlow, 7. Jacob Rowan (capt), 8. Ben Morgan

16. Darren Dawidiuk, 17. Nick Wood, 18. Josh McNulty, 19. Tom Hicks, 20. Elliott Stooke, 21. Callum Braley, 22. Charlie Sharples, 23. Gareth Evans

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