Gloucester and France defence coach Dave Ellis offers his views on the current week, including the Club's visit to Quins and France's opening Six Nations encounter against Scotland.
Ellis has a column in the weekly newspaper Rugby Times. This article as well as loads of other rugby news from around the game will be in this week's Rugby Times.
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Dave Ellis - Week of the start of the Six Nations
The RBS Six Nations is almost upon us and it will be one of the most competitive tournaments in years, with both Ireland and Wales providing a realistic challenge to France and England.
It's also a critical part of the domestic season with so many players away on international duty, but the recent England selections might just work in Gloucester's favour.
I have mixed emotions on Andy Robinson's team. I'm personally disappointed for Andy Gomarsall and Henry Paul, but equally delighted for Andy Hazell and James Forrester.
It's a tough call on Andy Gomarsall, one minute, first choice scrum half and the next minute third choice. The same applies to Henry Paul who in my opinion has been treated poorly by the England coaching team.
Henry performed superbly against Canada and South Africa, was taken off after only 26 minutes against Australia and now finds himself in the international wilderness behind the new midfield combination Jamie Noon and Mathew Tait, and Bath's Ollie Barkley who is preferred on the bench.
Putting my Gloucester hat on for a minute, I know the coaching staff at Kingsholm are delighted to have two influential performers in Gomarsall and Paul in our colours. Both players will have something to prove to Robinson and Gloucester's push for third spot in the Premiership can only benefit from this.
The selection of Noon and Tait in the centre positions is a bold decision by Robinson, both are good players who are currently in excellent form, but neither have experience at this level. It will be interesting to see how they perform, and I am sure the Welsh duo of Gavin Henson and Tom Shanklin will be targeting the new England midfield has a potential weakness.
This week has been the start of a very demanding schedule for me personally, after Sunday's analysis session at Kingsholm in the morning, I flew to Paris at lunchtime to meet Bernard Laporte, Jo Maso and the French management. We had a four-hour meeting before welcoming the players at around 5.00pm.
On Monday I ran a squad session, before working with individual players developing defence techniques. Fred Michalak is a player who is an extraordinary talented creative player, but is also an exceptional defender. At only 78kg, he destroys the theory that you have to be big to be effective in defence and has developed an exceptional technique to counter his lack of bulk.
During Monday's session the formidable Sale back row forward Sebastien Chabal came on to the ball two passes out from a ruck, he'd run from deep and was at full speed when he was intercepted by Michalak and unceremoniously dumped to the floor. He is pound for pound one of the finest defenders in international rugby and a pleasure to work with.
I arrived back at Birmingham Airport on Tuesday evening and travelled back to my flat in Gloucester to prepare for training with Gloucester on the Wednesday. One to one defensive work is as equally rewarding as team sessions and I've spent a fair amount of time working with Jon Goodridge and our quartet of wingers.
The aim is to attempt to replicate match day situations, putting players under extreme pressure - whether fielding the high ball, turning and collecting low kicks or working as a defensive trio. It is an area that we have improved enormously over the season and we were almost faultless against Worcester at the weekend.
My air miles rewards are further increased as I jet back to meet up with the French squad on Wednesday evening to prepare for the opener against Scotland in Paris.
Gary Jones of Glevum Windows and Conservatories recently visited Kingsholm Stadium and the Cherry and White supporter spoke exclusively to Gloucester Rugby TV after marking two decades as a box holder in the Stowford Press Stand at Kingsholm. A great feat!
Speaking to the local media this week during preseason, new hooker Richard Hibbard said he was really enjoying putting in the hard work and being back to full fitness ahead of the 2014-15 season with the Cherry and Whites.
Nick Walshe was unveiled as Gloucester's new Backs and Attack Coach this week and spoke to Simon Ward for the RFU.com podcast about his excitement at joining Gloucester and working with a new group of players.
Speaking after the Third Test defeat to New Zealand, Ben Morgan told RFU.com that the loss was a disappointing way to sign off the summer tour but that the England team know what they have to do to be successful.
At the end of a tour when there have been so many positives for England, fly half Freddie Burns, who will start the third Test against New Zealand, was clear that the whole squad are focussed on signing off with a memorable win when he spoke to RFU.com
Speaking to Steve Jones of RFU.com straight after the 27-28 defeat to New Zealand on Saturday, Billy Twelvetrees spoke of the frustration of a missed opportunity, but stressed that England would lick their wounds and bounce back.
Freddie Burns contributed 12 points in England's 20-15 defeat against New Zealand on Saturday but, speaking after the game to RFU.com, preferred to talk about the many positives in the performance from Stuart Lancaster's side.
Gloucester number eight Ben Morgan put in a great individual performance as England were just pipped by New Zealand by 20 points to 15 in Auckland on Saturday. He told Steve Jones of RFU.com that the team will be in good spirits going into the 2nd Test in Dunedin.
It's been marked in the diary since the spring, but rugby will be returning to Kingsholm on July 31st. The holders host the Premiership Rugby Sevens for the third consecutive year, and Dan Robson can't wait to get on the field with the new look squad.