Gloucester and France defence coach Dave Ellis offers his views on recent events, talking about France's preparation for the clash with Wales and current goings on at the Kingsholm club.
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.
Supporters can subscribe to the weekly publication, which has 32 pages of rugby updates, by visiting www.rugbytimes.com
Dave Ellis - Weekly Update
Two 'nail biting' victories in consecutive weeks and a few more grey hairs for the coaching staff! Gloucester's victory over Bath at the weekend may not have the same national significance as the French victory at Twickenham, none the less, to the Kingsholm faithful it was much more important. To beat our West Country rivals is the ultimate and ensures our supporters head home contented.
Sure, it would have been wonderful to beat Bath by 40 points and bask in the glory for another few weeks until we meet again in the Powergen Cup semi final. But the victory is what actually counts, whether a social veterans side, junior rugby or at Premiership standard, the main focus of any team putting their boots on at the weekend, is winning first and foremost, winning in style is secondary.
Leicester's annihilation of Newcastle at the weekend was a truly outstanding performance, however it was an exception. The Tigers' critical victories this season have been by the odd point, grinding out a win when a defeat looked more likely. It is the main reason why they head the Premiership, in fact it is what makes any champion team, getting the little details right in preparation and implementing them during the game.
In sharp contrast, the reaction in France to our Six Nations victories, yes I have to remind myself victories, against Scotland and England have received rather a lot of criticism from the press and particularly former internationals Pierre Villepreux and Pierre Berbizier. I fully understand the media encourage controversy in order to sell newspapers, but I hate to think what would have happened to Bernard Laporte and the French coaching staff had we actually lost these games - perhaps it would have been the guillotine for all of us!
After the World Cup semi final defeat by England, the French coaching team, including Bernard Laporte, Jo Maso and myself met to analyse our failure in the competition. Arguably, France had played the best rugby of the tournament, with entertaining victories over Fiji, Scotland and Ireland being the highlights, however on the big occasion against Clive Woodward's England we failed to change our game in the wet conditions in Sydney. The result took England to the World Cup Final and as history shows to victory.
If France are to win the World Cup we must learn from these lessons, England did not play the best rugby, but they played winning rugby and had the ability to change their tactics according to the situation they encountered. This is what France must emulate if we are to succeed, bringing a winning mentality to the squad in time for the next World Cup, even if this means copping some criticism in the meantime.
The last few weeks have been extremely demanding for me personally, jetting between Paris and Birmingham and driving to Gloucester sounds very glamorous, but I assure you there's not much fun waiting and queuing in Airport terminals. Not that I'm looking for any sympathy, I'd rather be doing this than having a proper job.
The majority of my time during this period has been spent analysing and planning, and the actual time on the field is relatively small in comparison. The hours viewing and editing video footage is possibly the most time consuming part of my job, but is tremendously rewarding when you see your initiatives having a major bearing on the result of a game. I am proud that the French defence has been so effective and it will have to be at it's very best if we are to thwart an extremely good Welsh team.
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).