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.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees told GRTV after the win in Brive that the game could have been a tough one to get up for, but that his Gloucester team mates did themselves proud on the night and got a big result.
Reflecting on the 31-20 victory in Brive on Thursday evening, Director of Rugby David Humphreys said that clinching a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final was the overall aim and duly achieved.
Gloucester may have already clinched a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys wants his side to finish the pool stages on a winning note in Brive on Thursday evening.
Speaking after Saturday's win, James Hudson was happy to record a bonus-point win against a hugely physical Oyonnax side as Gloucester secured their passage into the European Rugby Challenge Cup Quarter Finals
Billy Burns was a try scorer on his first European start for Gloucester and, speaking after the game, admitted that it was good to get the five points although there are still things to work on before the trip to Brive.
Gloucester Rugby have added to their front row strength in depth for next season with the signings of Paul Doran-Jones, Paddy McAllister and Nicky Thomas from Harlequins, Aurillac and the Ospreys respectively.
Connacht's 30-20 win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening means that they are the third best placed runners up and will come to Kingsholm for the quarter-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup in early April.