While the Scarlets, Blues and the Dragons are in a dogfight to gain automatic qualification for next year's Heineken Cup, a young Welsh scrum half is hoping to have a major say in his adopted French club gaining similar status for next season.
Former Scarlet Liam Davies - along with Barry Davies and Alix Popham - is a key player in Brive's quest for European action. Brive are currently outside of the automatic qualifying zone in seventh position in France's Top 14 competition. In their remaining two games of the season the Stadium Municipal outfit tackle Montpellier at home this weekend before tackling European Challenge Cup finalists Bourgoin at Stade Pierre Rajon next weekend.
Davies has overcome an early season ankle injury to become a major influence in the side where his partnership with England outside half Andy Goode has earned rave reviews in France. Indeed, Goode attributed his re-call to Martin Johnson's Six Nations squad earlier this year to the swift service his Welsh No9 was giving him.
Davies said: "Andy is a great player, you could see that in pre-season. You could see he had something special about him. Playing with him is great because he is very vocal. He tells you exactly what he wants."
Leaving his beloved Llanelli has proved a major culture shock for the 22-year-old but he admits his game has flourished since his move last summer.
"I had been at the Scarlets all my career so it was like coming out of my comfort zone when I first arrived in France. I didn't speak the language and I was coming into a new environment but I'm really happy the way things have turned out and I'm enjoying my rugby."
The Scarlets attempted to lure Davies back to Parc y Scarlets earlier this season but their audacious bid proved unsuccessful.
"I talked to them around Christmas time but Brive wouldn't release me from my contract but to be honest I'm glad they didn't now. Things are working out well for me in Brive," he explained.
You could feel sorry for Davies. After-all, he left the Scarlets and his replacement Martin Roberts then gets called up for Wales. If he had stayed, it could have been him getting the call from Warren Gatland and not Roberts.
"A lot of people have said that," he said from his Brive base. "I know Martin well, we've played against each other most of our lives. I still have massive aspirations to play for Wales and I firmly believe I'm a better player now than when I left Llanelli. You can't have any regrets [about leaving] or thinking what might have been. I've just got to concentrate on my game and hopefully things will work out."
Davies's transition has been helped by the fact that Brive attempt to play a high tempo game like the Scarlets, even if the sheer physicality of the game in France has taken him by surprise.
"The physicality on the pitch is amazing. The rucks and mauls are like a massive scrap really. The size of the guys and the skill level are very high. When you come up against the likes of Toulouse and Clermont their off-loading game is virtually impossible to deal with," he added.
The other major difference which has struck Davies is the mentality to away games. "Most teams in France have lost an away game before they even get on the bus," he said. "If they win, it's like a bonus. That mentality is totally different to what I was used to at the Scarlets. But with quite a few non-French players in our side, that mentality is slowly being eradicated."
With the imminent arrival of Bristol and former England scrum half Sean Perry, Davies has a battle on his hands to be first choice scrum half next season but it's a challenge he is prepared to tackle head on.
"Next season is going to be an interesting one for me," he admits. "I want to be first choice scrum half so I'm going to have to be on top of my game. But we've got to finish this season first and that means qualifying for the Heineken Cup. We've been fifth for most of the season but dropped down to seventh recently but with two games to play we've got a great chance to qualify for next year's Heineken Cup which is our main objective."
And who knows? If Brive get through what odds that he'll come face to face with some of his former team mates in next year's Heineken Cup?
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