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.
Billy Burns contributed all Gloucester's points in the 16-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening, but dedicated the victory to the whole squad whilst also praising the travelling support.
Speaking after Gloucester's brave 16-14 win against Stade Rochelais which clinches a European Rugby Challenge Cup final spot, Director of Rugby David Humphreys paid tribute to the way the team had executed the game plan in a hostile environment against quality opposition.
Greig Laidlaw returns to the Gloucester Rugby squad this week, and his inclusion is an important one after a serious ankle injury. The Scottish scrum half is determined to drive the team forward in their European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final in La Rochelle this Saturday.
Gloucester take on La Rochelle in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final in France on Saturday evening, with the Top 14 side the favourites in the eyes of the bookmakers. However, David Humphreys is looking for his side to rise to the occasion against a familiar opponent.
Speaking to GRTV after Saturday's 39-30 Aviva Premiership win over Sale, Mark Atkinson admitted that the performance wasn't perfect but that the team's character shone through in a game that could easily have slipped away.
Monday evening saw Freddie Clarke in A League action against Exeter, Saturday saw him make his Aviva Premiership debut. And both games resulted in wins! Freddie spoke to GRTV after the 39-30 win over Sale.
Billy Burns will get the headlines for his 16 point haul, but it was a team of heroes who went to La Rochelle and fought like demons to secure a magnificent 16-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup win on Saturday evening.