In his weekly update, Gloucester and France defence coach Dave Ellis talks of his travels to France last weekend.
With no game last weekend I decided to fly down to Bordeaux for a couple of days to oversee a number of business interests I have in the Aquitaine region. I used to coach at Begles Bordeaux and the League team Villeneuve, and am fortunate to have many good friends in this part of the country, so I managed to combine business and socialising in this rugby mad area.
On Thursday lunchtime (last week) I met up with a number of my League Championship winning team of 1996. Great players such as Fabien Devecchi, David Despin, Daniel Verdes, Francky Goffin and Jean-Luc Vareilles and we enjoyed reminiscing about those glorious years for the club.
Villeneuve is the oldest League team formed in France and its headquarters are in the heart of the town, in many respects it reminds me of Gloucester with its strong bond with the rugby club and its fanatical fan base.
I also bumped into Jean Pierre Clar. In his early 60s Jean Pierre is a legend in these areas, around 5ft 10in and 14 stone maximum he is one of only a small number of players to gain French Championship winner medals in both codes of rugby. Having gained honours for Agen Rugby Club where he played prop, he switched codes and positions for Villeneuve, operating at loose forward. Immensely strong he played well above his weight, nicknamed the tree trunk for his awesome scrummaging technique.
This particular region has an excellent reputation for developing front rowers in the dark arts of the scrum. Former France international Jean-Jacques Crenca from nearby Agen is a very good friend of mine, the loosehead prop, christened the 'hard man' of French rugby is one of the most feared scrumagers in world rugby.
I had discussed bringing him over to Gloucester where I believe he would have added some steel to our pack, but the signing of Patrice Collazo, a fine front row forward himself, has filled the club's quota. Vickery and Crenca in the same front row would have made an awesome combination.
My fleeting visit wasn't nearly long enough and before I knew it I was boarding the plane back to England. I picked up a copy of 'Midi Olympique' (a 48pp weekly rugby newspaper) to entertain me on the two-hour flight. The match report on league leaders Bourgoin's defeat at the hands of Agen centred on Crenca dismantling the opposition's scrummage (including Pucciarello and Milloud) almost single handedly.
On the front cover the heading 'EUROSTARS' previewed four players due to take centre stage in the weekend's European Cup semi finals - Dominici (Stade Francais), Harinordoquy (Biarritz), Jauzion (Toulouse) and Johnson (Leicester).
How ironic that two of the four would have such an impact on the outcome of the eventual finalists? Christophe Dominici's extra time winning try was pure theatre and although the game was far from a classic Fabien Galthie's Midas touch continues.
Back in 2002 I was working with Yves Ajac and the French 'A' team. In the centre the young Colomiers player caught the eye, 6ft 3in and 16 stone frame he looked to have tremendous potential, but seemed to lack confidence in his own ability. Yannick Jauzion's switch from Colomiers to Toulouse has given him that missing confidence and he has firmly established himself in the French national squad. His performance against Leicester was exceptional, destructive in defence and majestic with the ball in hand. Jauzion is without doubt one of the best three-quarters in world rugby, if not the best.
As Gloucester prepare for their 39th game of the season, against Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways on Sunday, David Humphreys told the local media that this week has been all about getting the players mentally and physically ready after a tough game against Connacht last Sunday.
Speaking to GRTV after the 40-32 victory over Connacht on Sunday, skipper Billy Twelvetrees explained that Gloucester had had to learn to be patient and cut out the errors to earn the win and progress to next weekend's final play-off against Bordeaux-Begles.
Jonny May's superb late score capped a thrilling 40-32 European play-off win over Connacht on Sunday. The winger spoke afterwards of his team's character and spirit as he looked ahead to one more week of rugby.
Speaking to GRTV this afternoon, Director of Rugby David Humphreys hailed the 'never say die' attitude of the team, after despite not being at their best, fighting back to take a 40-32 win after extra time over Connacht.
Jonny May continues on the wing on Sunday as Connacht come to town, and the England wing explains to the local media this week that he is delighted with his form and is looking forward to taking on Pat Lam's men.
Speaking to the local media this week, front rower John Afoa is familiar with the challenge of Connacht from his time in Belfast, and the World Cup winner is fully aware of the challenge they pose ahead of Sunday's meeting in the Champions Cup play off
Speaking ahead of Gloucester's European Rugby Champions play-off against Connacht on Sunday (Kingsholm, 3:30pm), Director of Rugby David Humphreys admitted that he's glad to have more players available than in recent weeks ahead of a tough fixture.
Nick Wood captained the Cherry and Whites on Saturday afternoon, and the experienced front rower expressed his pride in the young squad in defeat to Bath on the final day of the Aviva Premiership season.
Lewis Ludlow scored Gloucester's opening try in the 30-50 defeat at Bath on Saturday, part of an impressive performance by the young back row forward. Speaking after the game, he paid tribute to the young Gloucester side who went toe to toe with the Aviva Premiership semi-finalists.
Tongan international forward Sione Kalamafoni returns after injury to take up his usual place in the back row as Gloucester look to finish their season on a high against Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways on Sunday.
Gloucester Rugby is delighted to confirm that 18 year old Mat Protheroe, a product of Hartpury College and one of the brightest young talents in the English game, has signed a senior contract at Kingsholm.