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.
Gloucester have been in good form in recent weeks, but Backs Coach Tim Taylor knows that the Cherry and Whites will have to be at their best on Thursday evening (kick off 7:45pm) against a Stade Rochelais side flying high this season.
Speaking to GRTV after the bonus point win over Bristol, back row Lewis Ludlow revealed that despite a tricky first half, Gloucester backed their skills to come through, a faith that was evident in a strong second half showing.
Willi Heinz scored Gloucester's second try as the Cherry and Whites overturned a disappointing first 40 minutes and 0-6 half time deficit, to earn a 26-18 Aviva Premiership victory over Bristol Rugby on Saturday.
It's the first Gloucester-Bristol derby at Kingsholm in over eight years this Saturday (kick off 4:30pm) and, previewing the game with the local media this week, Defence Coach Jonny Bell stressed that, with both teams in the bottom half of the table, they both need the points.
Gloucester's much changed side had to overcome conceding an early try on Thursday evening, but responded in style to down Stade Rochelais by 35 points to 14 in the European Rugby Challenge Cup and set up a mouthwatering return fixture next weekend.
After taking 11 points from their last three games in the Aviva Premiership, including bonus point wins against Wasps and Bristol, Gloucester will be looking to continue their good form when they welcome La Rochelle to Kingsholm.