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.
Speaking after the 37-8 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Benetton Treviso, James Hook admitted that the Italian side made things tough for Gloucester at times but that the Cherry and Whites are happy to take the bonus point win and turn their focus to Northampton next week.
Speaking to GRTV after the game, Backs Coach Tim Taylor was happy with the squad as they cruised to victory over Treviso. The result wasn't in doubt, but the Cherry and Whites laboured to secure a crucial try bonus point.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester Rugby centre Matt Scott is excited to take the field again as the Cherry and Whites look to build on the win in Bayonne when Treviso come to Kingsholm this Saturday.
Defence Coach Jonny Bell admitted this week that the European Rugby Challenge Cup victory in Bayonne was a welcome one, stressed that Benetton Treviso will pose a tough test on Saturday at Kingsholm but that Gloucester are determined to deliver in front of their own fans.
Motu Matu'u is looking to make up for lost time this week as the Cherry and Whites head to Basque Country to take on Bayonne in the European Rugby Challenge Cup opener. The Samoan hooker made his first appearance in the jersey last weekend, and is hoping to contribute to the team this weekend.
Gloucester's attentions turn to Europe this weekend as they travel to Bayonne for their opening fixture of this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup. Forwards Coach Trevor Woodman told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will be aiming to top their pool as they've done for the past two seasons, but is well aware of how tough it is to win in France.
Although understandably disappointed at seeing victory slip away at the last minute, Ben Morgan said after the game at Exeter that there were plenty of positives that Gloucester could take from the game.
The Gloucester Rugby Half Term Rugby Camps got off to a great start on Monday morning, with over 60 young rugby players braving the chilly weather to experience a great day of skills, learning and fun thanks to the Gloucester Rugby Community Department.
A number of Gloucester Rugby's promising young players are currently playing their competitive rugby on loan at other clubs, and six of them featured in Saturday's game between London Welsh and Rotherham Titans.
Gloucester made it two wins from two outings in this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup as they outplayed Benetton Treviso at Kingsholm to win by 37 points to 8, the bonus point try coming with the final play of the game.