Brive are heading back towards the big time - and the 1997 Heineken Cup winners are targeting more Euro silverware in the shape of the European Challenge Cup.
Brive's dramatic fall from the heights of being champions of Europe to failing to qualify for either ERC organised tournament between 2001 and 2003 has been reversed and now they are fifth in the Top 14 and through to the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals where they clash with Worcester Warriors at Sixways Stadium on Saturday.
And Wales No 8 Alix Popham, one of the galaxy of stars behind their resurgence, is adamant the club from the Correze region means real business in Europe.
"This is a must win game for us - we simply cannot afford to lose this quarter-final, said the player capped 33 times by Wales. You only have one chance with knock-out games and we must take that chance. Before the start of the season when we were in camp we laid down our objectives for the season. They were a top six finish in the Top 14, and automatic qualification for next season's Heineken Cup, or qualifying as winners of the European Challenge Cup and at the moment both avenues are open to us. "
"Playing in the Heineken Cup is the ultimate. It is both the toughest and most glamorous club competition in the world and every club wants to be a part of it. That said, once you get to this stage of the European Challenge Cup there are some great games and the standard of the tournament is rising all the time. It is a very physical and demanding tournament once the knock-out stages arrive."
Popham and England fly half Any Goode were among the high profile arrivals at Brive last summer, joining a squad that includes the likes of Ben Cohen, Steve Thompson, Ben Johnston, Damien Browne, Barry Davies and Liam Davies plus Test players from Australia, France, Italy, Argentina, Fiji, Tonga, Romania, Georgia and Morocco. Brive failed to register a win in their opening five games but have since gone from strength to strength, taking the domestic scalps of ASM Clermont Auvergne, Biarritz Olympique, Bayonne and doing the Euro double over Newcastle Falcons.
"We always knew our start to the Top 14 would be tough and although we failed to get a win from our first five games, once we started winning we have been able to build on that, said Popham, who has also played 30 Heineken Cup matches for the Scarlets (19), Leeds Carnegie (6) and Newport RFC (5) and now coming to the end of the first part of a two year
deal with Brive with the option of a third season."
"I hope Worcester are able to put out their best team - and I am sure they will - because I guess they will view a win over us as a big confidence booster. I have played three times at Sixways, twice for Leeds and also in a pre-season warm-up
match, and lost the lot so it would be good if I could break my duck at the ground. Worcester have a very strong pack and recruited well in the backs and one player I am really looking forward to catching up with is my mate and outside half Matthew Jones, who was my room-mate on the Wales tour to America and Canada in 2005."
"This year has been a learning curve for us and winning on the road is still a factor for Brive. Trying to change that mentality has been a major aim of ours as we have to start consistently winning away from home because we are most certainly not where we want to be just yet."
The directors of ERC voted unanimously at a Board meeting to postpone all decisions including the release of further instalments of ERC's distributable central revenues to the six shareholder countries until 19 February next when the Board will meet again to reconsider the issue.