Several of the Gloucester Rugby squad have traded in the Cherry and White for the Red Rose of England this weekend, and there were mixed fortunes for all in a tough weekend against good opposition.
Billy Twelvetrees and Jonny May were starting for England as they kicked off the RBS Six Nations in Paris on Saturday evening. For May, the winger's involvement was fleeting after an unfortunate injury to his nose cut short his game. The game was a particularly loose and open one, perhaps frustratingly May was the ideal candidate to make the most of such evenings.
Twelvetrees again looked at home in the Test arena and was solid and creating chances for England, but they will rue letting the French back in to the game as they went down 26-24 at the Stade de France.
A Yoanne Huget score after just 35 seconds shocked England and then Huget repeated the trick as a fortuitous bounce fell gratefully for the Toulouse wing.
England hit back through Mike Brown's first International try and went from strength to strength, chalking up 18 unanswered points through the boot of Farrell, a Danny Care drop goal and a debut score for Northampton Saints centre Luther Burrell.
In the closing stages, Ben Morgan entered the fray for Billy Vunipola, and the Gloucester number eight made a big impact with a number of strong carries and England plugged away to hold onto their lead and close the game out. It wasn't to be however as, with minutes left on the clock, Gael Fickou ghosted over for Les Bleus to make it a tough start for Stuart Lancaster's charges who travel to Murrayfield to take on Scotland next weekend.
The England Saxons were in action against Scotland A in Glasgow on Friday night. Freddie Burns, Elliott Stooke and Dan Robson all started on a wet night at Scotstoun. The power of the Saxons' pack looked to be in charge of the game as a penalty try, coupled with a Burns penalty and conversion, looked to be stretching the Saxons away.
But a late Scotland try, coupled with a Tom Heathcote penalty, leveled the scores and neither side could land the killer blow and the game ended 16-16.
Charlie Sharples came on and looked bright, while Stooke and Robson continued their good form, despite Robson being shown the most bizarre of yellow cards.
Finally, the England Under 20s kicked off their Six Nations campaign with a trip to France, but it was Les Bleus who came out on top in 'Le Mini Crunch'.
Gloucester duo Billy Burns and Ross Moriarty were both instrumental but the U20s were edged out 21-15 in a fiercely contested match.
Moriarty was named the BMW man-of-the-match for the game and Burns was impressive from the tee as England fought back through a Tom Stephenson try before going down to a late home try.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees told GRTV after the win in Brive that the game could have been a tough one to get up for, but that his Gloucester team mates did themselves proud on the night and got a big result.
Reflecting on the 31-20 victory in Brive on Thursday evening, Director of Rugby David Humphreys said that clinching a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final was the overall aim and duly achieved.
Gloucester may have already clinched a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys wants his side to finish the pool stages on a winning note in Brive on Thursday evening.
Speaking after Saturday's win, James Hudson was happy to record a bonus-point win against a hugely physical Oyonnax side as Gloucester secured their passage into the European Rugby Challenge Cup Quarter Finals
Billy Burns was a try scorer on his first European start for Gloucester and, speaking after the game, admitted that it was good to get the five points although there are still things to work on before the trip to Brive.
Gloucester Rugby have added to their front row strength in depth for next season with the signings of Paul Doran-Jones, Paddy McAllister and Nicky Thomas from Harlequins, Aurillac and the Ospreys respectively.
Connacht's 30-20 win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening means that they are the third best placed runners up and will come to Kingsholm for the quarter-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup in early April.