Silencing the crowd will go a long way towards putting Newcastle Falcons on the path to victory in Brive tomorrow, says fly-half Phil Godman.
The two clubs meet in central France for the fifth time in eight years as the Amlin Challenge Cup pool phase enters its second week, the Falcons having won twice at the home of the former Heineken Cup champions.
Godman said: “Playing in France is different to any other country.
“People rightly talk about the passion of the home crowd, but if you flip that on its head they can also turn on their team quite quickly.
“When they get their tails up you notice the crowd and the role that they play and, while I always enjoy playing over there, it can be a hostile environment.”
Brive have lost only one of their last 11 Challenge Cup games on home soil and were 34-0 winners over French champions Castres at Stade Amedee Domenech in their last domestic outing there.
“I saw the highlights on TV and it certainly came as a surprise,” said Godman, who is in line to start in the 8pm kick-off when director of rugby Dean Richards names his side later today.
“It was not like Castres had rested all their players and they still had a decent side out.
“I know it is a bit of a cliché, but French teams at home are a different animal. Brive are proud of their home record and I am sure they will try to make life difficult for us.”
Looking to improve on last week’s 13-12 triumph at Bucharest Wolves last week, the Scottish international said: “The first half saw the Romanians giving it absolutely everything, and we were probably a bit disappointed that during the second half we didn’t take the chances we created.
“You would have to say Bucharest deserved their half-time lead based on what they had shown.
“Their physicality was intense and maybe shook us a little, but we regrouped in the second half even if we did not take all our chances.”
Looking to use Europe as a springboard for their domestic season as they host London Irish a week on Sunday, the former Edinburgh and London Scottish man added: “There is a big focus on Brive, but also with one eye on the Premiership return.
“Momentum is a big factor and winning a third game in a row would give us a bit of a run with which to attack the London Irish match.
“Making some of those passes stick is going to be the key, and it is a big opportunity for some of the guys to really stake their claim for selection.”
Given an inside view of Brive by Falcons team-mate Mike Blair, Godman said: “Mike really enjoyed his time over there last season and has been a good guy to have around in the build-up.
“He has given us a bit of an insight into the crowd and the philosophy of the team, although he has his daughter’s birthday this weekend so he will have his hands full at home!
“Brive’s team will probably be a mixture of their main guys and some of the younger boys, and we know it will be a tough game.
“They will bring physicality and a big set-piece, but they like to play and to counter-attack as well.
“Two away wins would set us up nicely, especially with Brive and Calvisano drawing last weekend.”
Echoing Godman’s assessment, Blair said: “Our away form has been pretty good, and this will be a big test for the lads.
“Brive have a big forward pack, but it is hard to know what their mind-set is and what sort of side they are going to put out.
“Their priority is very much the Top 14, where they have started well, winning all of their home games pretty comfortably.
“I guess for them it is a balance between maintaining that momentum by winning in Europe and keeping guys fresh for when they return to the league programme.”