Gloucester and France defence coach Dave Ellis offers his views on recent events, looking back at the Six Nations win over Andy Robinson's side.
Ellis has a weekly column in the Rugby Times newspaper and his words are in this week's edition, as well as loads of other rugby news from around the game.
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Dave Ellis - Weekly Update
In the last few weekly articles I've mentioned the word 'composure' many times and the importance it plays in deciding the results of many tight games. The French performance at the weekend clearly illustrated the importance of displaying a cool temperament in the heat of battle.
Dimitri Yachvili held his nerve at the critical times to produce an accurate place kicking display. I was equally impressed with the whole team's performance and our focus and determination to compete, despite being outplayed in many facets of the game.
The overall statistics simply defy logic, for instance England spent almost 70 per cent of the game in French territory, and France completed in the region of 116 exhausting tackles, whereas England were required to make only 43. This data is truly remarkable and shows tremendous spirit by the French team to not only stay in the game, but to gain victory in such adversity was exceptional.
While many purists and pundits criticised the French for a lack of adventure, needless to say as a defence specialist, I am extremely proud of the performance that resulted in victory at Twickenham. As I mentioned in last week's article - 'I would prefer to win ugly than lose beautifully' - I make no apologies for this.
During the first half we were penalised heavily by Paddy O'Brien and having discussed the problems at half time, we decided not to compete at the breakdown. It is very confusing for players as Southern Hemisphere referees, who are used to the Super 12s style of play, interpret this area of the game very differently to their Northern Hemisphere colleagues. England however had enough opportunities in the first half to put the game beyond France, but we remained focussed and gradually clawed our way back into the match.
I am realistic enough to know that we will have to improve our overall play dramatically to beat an insurgent Welsh team in Paris, and both Ireland and Italy in Dublin and Rome, respectively. But there were some extremely encouraging signs, for instance, I thought newcomers Jean-Phillipe Grandclaude and Yannick Nyanga were both impressive as replacements. And combined with the inclusion of Brive's exciting full back Julien Laharrague following an impressive display against England 'A' at the Rec on Friday and the return from injury of Imanol Harinordoquy, Aurelien Rougerie and Yannick Jauzion our attacking options look to have improved dramatically.
My unusual position of an Englishman in the heart of French rugby provides me with a totally unique perspective of French rugby, and I must admit I become slightly irritated at the total nonsense spoken about our performances and attitude to the game.
Everytime I switch the television highlights on, the TV network wheels out some former international player who bleats out the same old rubbish "very undisciplined", "which French team will turn up?", "inconsistent", "don't travel away from home very well".
It really is rubbish… France may have had problems in the past, but frankly it's about time someone put the record straight. Under Bernard Laporte France are extremely disciplined. During our 2003 Grand Slam campaign only Ireland conceded less penalties in games against France.
We also perform consistently well in the Six Nations - since 2000 we are the second best performing nation behind England, gaining Grand Slams in 2002 and 2004. For a team that supposedly doesn't travel well we've got a pretty good record too - only lost two away games since 2002.
It's back to domestic matters this weekend as we entertain Bath at Kingsholm in a must win game. It really is critical we put the disappointment of the poor Harlequins performance behind us and ensure we give our rivals a good beating. A bonus point would be ideal to move us back up the table, theoretically we could move up to fourth.
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
On a tough evening at Kingsholm, Gloucester could escape neither a suffocating Bath defence, nor the whistle of referee Greg Garner as six penalties and a penalty try paved the way to a 39-16 win for the visitors.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).