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 to the local media this week, John Afoa described the hard work that the Cherry and White have been putting in and that he is fighting fit ready for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final clash with Exeter Chiefs.
Gloucester Rugby face Exeter Chiefs this Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final, and Charlie Sharples, who starts at full back is relishing the challenge of the big Kingsholm occasion.
Gloucester meet the Exeter Chiefs for the fourth time in competitive action this weekend, this time in the semi-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. Director of Rugby David Humphreys told the local media this week that this is the sort of game that Gloucester want to be involved in on a regular basis and that he and his team are looking forward to it.
Following the 29-26 loss to Harlequins, club captain Billy Twelvetrees spoke of his disappointment that the Cherry and Whites were unable to cash in on the home side's indiscipline and lose a lead on Saturday afternoon.
Number eight Gareth Evans admitted to a collective feeling of frustration as Gloucester lost narrowly at Harlequins on Saturday, but insisted that there are plenty of positives to draw upon ahead of next Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final at home to Exeter.
Gloucester travel to the Stoop on Saturday afternoon to take on Harlequins in the Aviva Premiership. The Cherry and Whites make just two changes from last weekend's win over Connacht as they seek consistency and continuity in their play as Nick Walshe told the local media this week.
Gloucester Rugby qualified for their first European final since 2006 as they defeated the in-form Exeter Chiefs by 30 points to 19 in a thrilling semi-final at Kingsholm on Saturday evening. The club photographer caught the best of the action.
Recent meetings between these two teams have often been thrillers, and this was no exception. It went down to the final few minutes, but Gloucester produced the goods when it mattered to qualify for the European Rugby Challenge Cup Final, beating Exeter 30-19.
Supporters who are still to purchase tickets for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final at home to Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm (kick off 7:45pm) are reminded that Early Bird prices are only valid until 6:30pm on Thursday evening.