Gloucester and France defence coach Dave Ellis offers his views on the current week, including his preparations for the clash with England on Sunday.
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 - Week of England Vs France
This year's Six Nations Tournament is developing into one of the most intriguing competitions for years. The Welsh victory over England and the unconvincing performances of both Ireland and France has thrown the championship wide open.
The game at the Millennium Stadium was an extremely tense affair and in the final analysis the Welsh backline just edged it against the impressive English pack. As I suggested in last week's article Henson and Shanklin's greater experience at international level was critical, as the duo totally outplayed the new midfield combination of Tait and Noon.
There were many positives for Andy Robinson, I thought the pack was magnificent, particularly in the second half and if England can build confidence and add flair to their backline they will remain genuine contenders for this years title. I just hope they don't put it together this weekend!
The French performance has received a lot of criticism, both in France and in England reaching an almost hysterical level. Bernard Laporte's pragmatic approach is not universally popular, but every rugby coach on the planet gets judged on his team's results and frankly I would prefer to win ugly than lose beautifully.
The media and public have very short memories. England's World Cup success was based purely and simply on winning at all costs, they beat South Africa with a charge down try, were outplayed in many aspects of the game against Samoa and Wales, 'dogged it out' against France in the semis and finally played their best game in the final against the Aussies.
I'm not undermining England's success, far from it, the achievement was absolutely tremendous, but the below par performances are forgotten because they focussed on getting the results. As Ellen MacArthur clearly illustrated this week - history only remembers the winners.
We didn't play as well as we would have liked against Scotland, we made far too many mistakes, none-the-less I felt, like Wales, we deserved the victory. Despite not functioning as fluidly as we would have liked we were the side who created opportunities in the game, whereas the Scots competed well, did the basics right and fed off our large error count.
According to press reports Matt Williams was furious over the disallowed try and the sin binning of Jon Petrie late in the game. I can understand his frustration, having looked at the Alistair Hogg incident several times on video - it is difficult with the camera angles available to tell if his right foot touched the white wash or not. Fortunately the decision went in our favour.
One positive element from the game was our defence, which functioned extremely well limiting the Scots to very few scoring opportunities. In fact the try scored in the closing minutes by Damien Traille was as a result of our enthusiastic 'kick and chase'. We managed to pressurise Hugo Southwell's clearing kick and as a consequence secured the victory.
This weekend's game against England would be difficult in normal circumstances, but with our ever-growing injury crisis it makes it even more challenging. Much will depend on Serge Betsen's availability.
On the domestic front the defeat against Harlequins at the weekend was both surprising and disappointing, particularly as the Quins had a player dismissed early. Although I wasn't present at the game, it would appear we lacked composure and tried to play too loosely. I read Dean's (Ryan) comments in the press where he described our performance as 'suicide rugby' - there is a lot to be said for a pragmatic approach!
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.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
Matt Kvesic was a try scorer and recipient of the Man of the Match award in Sunday's 35-10 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Zebre. He praised the Italian side for their spirited opposition and admitted that next week's return game will be a tough one.
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).