Rugby Union: Saint-Andre makes heavenly debut

Gloucester 35 Bristol 13
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Gloucester 35 Bristol 13

The pressure finally got to Philippe Saint-Andre, so he moved to Gloucester and bought a flat in Cheltenham, doubtless with the Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society. What a team.

After a sensational debut in the Premiership, the 30-year-old sat in a temporary office which could have passed as a sauna and explained, through an interpreter, why he joined a club who were quoted as 250-1 with the bookmakers to make a mark this season. "I had five businesses and the captaincy of France," he said. "I wanted to learn the language, the culture of England. I wanted to get away from Paris... from London."

If he thought he did not like the heat, he walked straight into the kitchen. Since moving to the West Country in July he has endured, under the Gloucester coach Richard Hill, endless training sessions. How many? It was at this point that the interpreter needed an interpreter. Everybody thought Saint- Andre had said 18. It turned out to be 80.

"It's very new to me," he said. "In France it was always press conferences, TV shows and big meals."

Saint-Andre is on the left wing which, according to his connections, is where his philosophical heart lies, and his younger brother Raphael on the right. In between them are the New South Walian Richard Tombs and the impressive Western Samoan Terry Fanolua. At the base are the local lads Scott Benton and Mark Mapletoft and they lose nothing in the translation.

It is possible that Gloucester would have won without the senior Saint, but what is irrefutable is that his contribution was dynamic. His tries, in the space of 10 minutes early in the second half, demonstrated that he has lost nothing in the art of finishing.

"I think it will be very difficult for any team to win in Gloucester," said Saint Andre, who found the English game physical but clean. "I had plenty of balls, as much balls as I had in 10 matches with Montferrand."

The second half was as glorious for Gloucester as the first half was awful. They went into the 10-minute interval 6-0 down and Hill made an astute, brave tactical move. Because the line-out ball was not finding the jumpers, he brought on Neil McCarthy for Phil Greening and within minutes Gloucester were ahead.

Hill, the former Bath and England scrum-half, has rejected overtures for the England coaching job. "It's not the right time," he said. "I'm learning all the time. It would be a tremendous honour and if it came up in five years' time then who knows?"

The huge number of training sessions that came as a culture shock to Saint-Andre have been mostly devoted to physical conditioning. "He thinks we have spent too much time in the weights room and not enough on the pitch," Hill said. "A few of the lads wondered about his commitment, but when he's got the ball in his hands he's switched on. He's willing to take anyone on and his performance has earned him a lot of respect from the rest of the players."

As for Bristol, who have lost key forwards in Simon Shaw, Mark Regan and Martin Corry, they confirmed the suspicion that they will be the Coventry City of the Premiership, but they are not without hope. For the most part their tackling was outstanding and the speed and creativeness of Josh Lewsey and Kevin Maggs should have produced more than one try.

Gloucester: Tries P Saint-Andre 2, Windo, Fidler. Conversions: Mapletoft 3. Penalties Mapletoft 3. Bristol: Try Corkery. Conversion Burke. Penalties Burke 2.

Gloucester: C Catling; R Saint-Andre, R Tombs, T Fanolua, P Saint-Andre; M Mapletoft, S Benton; T Windo, P Greening (N McCarthy, 40), A Deacon, M Cornwell, R Fidler, P Glanville (capt), S Devereux, N Carter.

Bristol: J Lewsey; D Tiueti, K Maggs (M Denney, 75), F Waters, B Breeze; P Burke, R Jones (capt); M Worsley, K Dunn, K Fullman, J Wakeford, J Brownrigg, D Corkery, E Rollitt, C Short (S Pearce, 79).

Referee: J Pearson (RFU).

Philippe Saint-Andre: Made

dynamic contribution