Saint-André steeled for Gloucester challenge

It is a close-run thing, given Nigel Melville's trophy-winning exploits last season, but Philippe Saint-André may just be the most popular coach ever to have dipped his toe in the sporting maelstrom that goes by the name of Gloucester RFC. If the players found the Frenchman's moods almost as unfathomable as the industrial coffee-making machine he installed in the Kingsholm clubhouse the day after succeeding Richard Hill as top dog, the local supporters loved him so such that they serenaded him with an agricultural version of "La Marseillaise" every time he appeared in public.

Maybe the troglodytes holed up in the Kingsholm Shed will one day adopt a Yorkshire accent and treat Melville to a rendition of "On Ilkley Moor Baht'At"; maybe they will go for it this afternoon, should Gloucester make their old boss suffer on his long-awaited return to the Cotswolds. Who knows? If a coach as dedicated and successful as the former Tricolore captain can be railroaded out of town for some spurious contractual reason, as Saint-André was early in 2002, everything is possible.

Being the competitive little blighter he is, Saint-André has been pumping himself up for this occasion since the Heineken Cup draw was made in the summer. Bourgoin are a very tidy outfit, and while their coach would much prefer them to be at full strength - the absences of Olivier Milloud, Christophe Laussucq and Grant Esterhuizen hardly help their cause - they are treating this as a win-or-bust fixture, having slipped up by a point against Munster last weekend.

Yesterday, Saint-André was making all the usual statements about Gloucester's forward strength and near-invincibility on home territory. "If you want a result at Kingsholm, you must never switch off, not for one second," he said. "When Gloucester start to go forward, when the stands are full of people and noise, you can concede a lot of points in two or three minutes. They are strong at the set-piece, strong in defence and with the pressure of the public, funny things can happen to referees. So we will have to be strong too, in heart and in mind."

Strength is something Bourgoin appear to possess in abundance. They lost few players to the World Cup, but their domestic results speak for themselves. They have won three out of four matches in the championship, including a game against Nick Mallett's Stade Français in Paris, and reached the final of the elite knock-out competition, where they lost a controversial contest to a resurgent Castres. They are in good shape, and Saint-André knows it.

Yet Gloucester remain favourites. They will miss Andy Hazell, their specialist open-side flanker, who is suffering from a stomach injury, but with Peter Buxton and Adam Eustace restored to a pack boasting England's World Cup-winning props, Trevor Woodman and Phil Vickery, they will not be short of physical presence. If the West Countrymen get home this afternoon, their chances of progress will largely depend on next month's back-to-back matches with Munster, their co-stars in last season's unforgettable piece of sporting theatre. The prospect could not be more delicious.

Northampton also face a severe test of their mettle from the French today, and when Agen, captained by the formidable Jean-Jacques Crenca, arrive at Franklin's Gardens, they will discover that Matthew Dawson is not around to stoke the Midlanders' fires. Dawson suffered a hip injury during training this week, so the Saints must make do with just the three members of the World Cup-winning squad: Ben Cohen, Steve Thompson and Paul Grayson.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
I'm not worried about United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker