Brive are back in the Heineken Cup after missing out on the last 11 tournaments - and England centre Jamie Noon is hoping it is going to be third time lucky for him in the elite European club rugby competition.
A veteran of more than 50 European matches, the former Newcastle Falcons midfield stalwart has only had two previous forays into the top flight ERC tournament. Now his move to the 1997 Heineken Cup champions neatly dovetails with only Brive's third season in the tournament after last gracing the big stage in 1998/98. Noon's Heineken Cup debut came against Newport in 2001, a season in which he also faced Toulouse and Leinster. The game against Leinster that season, which the Dubliners won 17-15, saw him play against Brian O'Driscoll and Shane Horgan in the midfield.
Eight years on and that man O'Driscoll lies in wait once again as Noon's new club relish their return to the top table of European rugby. First up for the club from the Correze region on their return is a trip to West Wales on
Saturday to face the Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets.
"The Heineken Cup is such a great competition because there are stars throughout every squad," said Noon. "When it comes to international time, the national coaches pick players who are playing well in the Heineken Cup.
"It is a real step up from domestic league competition. It is a great honour for Brive to be back in the Heineken Cup after such a long break and we will be going out to give everything."
Brive have never been beaten at home in the Heineken Cup and can include the Scarlets among those victims, beating the then Llanelli Scarlets 35-14 in the 1996/97 quarter-finals.
"The atmosphere at the Brive stadium is always good and we intend to throw everything at Leinster, the Scarlets and London Irish when they come to us" said Noon.
"The Scarlets are first up and we'll be doing our homework on them before we travel. Alix Popham obviously played there for a number of years and he still knows some of their players, but Parc y Scarlets will be a new venue to all of us.
"Leinster are obviously the reigning champions and the game against them in France in Round 2 is one we will be targeting. Irish rugby is on a massive high at the moment after the Grand Slam and Leinster winning the Heineken Cup, so they are top of the pile. I've played against Leinster before in the Heineken Cup, although that was a few years ago now. We know they are a very good side and it would be great if Riki Flutey could be fit to play alongside me against Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy.
"As for the midfield pairings at the Scarlets and London Irish, I don't know a lot about them. But we'll be doing our homework on the youngsters coming through like Jonathan Davies at the Scarlets."
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.