Agen are back on the European stage after a three-year absence – and new signing Valentin Courrent is setting his sights on finally being part of a European title winning team.
Gloucester Rugby under the Stade Alfred Armandie floodlights on Friday night will provide the first challenge for Agen and half back Courrent, who came on as a Biarritz Olympique second half replacement in last season’s Heineken Cup final against Toulouse, knows they must make home advantage count.
“We start our European campaign at home against Gloucester and I know just what we can expect – a typical English game that will be tough up front so we are in for a good match,” said the player who has played in Europe for Brive, Sale Sharks, Toulouse and Biarritz Olympique.
“I played them last year when I was with Biarritz and now I will meet my former team-mate at Brive, Pierre Capdevielle, and face Nicky Robinson, who I know pretty well by now.
“He has a superb kicking game and made sure he kept us pegged back in our own territory last year by kicking the ball out wide.
“He kept such a tight control of the game and we simply could not find a solution.
“The new formula introduced last season of having the Heineken Cup Pool runners-up taking part in the knock-out stages is a good thing to increase the level of the Amlin Challenge Cup.
“However, it is also beneficial and good news for the Heineken Cup clubs while it does complicate things for us who start out in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
“There is simply no room for error and that means we have to do everything possible to try and win our Pool because it is most certainly our intention at Agen to make the quarter-finals .
“As for the rest of our group La Rochelle, like ourselves, are newly promoted in the Top 14 so we will get the chance to face each other also in our domestic league.
“That means at least four games which might or might not help our performance in the European competition so that will be interesting to see.
“However, Rovigo are a bit of an unknown factor to me so we will just have to wait and see how they perform in the opening two rounds before we assess their abilities.
“And despite the club’s results in the Top 14 so far, I personally feel good in this new club. They took me on board and gave me a nice welcome and there is a good atmosphere amongst our group.”
Courrent’s travels have seen him play in both European tournaments and his stand out memory is the 2008 Heineken Cup final.
“I was with Toulouse when they played Munster at the Millennium Stadium and although I didn’t play in the final and, even though we lost, I remember the awesome atmosphere of the whole event,” he said.
“Of course last year’s final with Biarritz against Toulouse was also a great moment. Toulouse won it that time round and I was in the opposition! How ironic.
“I also keep fond memories of some Challenge Cup games with Brive, especially towards the end of my time with them when we played against Saracens – that was brilliant.
“We got a win after extra time that led us to the semi-finals where Pau went on to beat us.
“It’s a bit frustrating to have been in clubs that got to two ERC finals and come so close to the title but that gives me some motivation to achieve it one day before the end of my career. That would be brilliant.”