Brive are European stalwarts – on Thursday night they will play their 97th ERC tournament match – and they have nothing but praise for Amlin Challenge Cup newcomers CR La Vila.

Brive, the 1997 Heineken Cup winners and the tournament finalists the following season, top Pool 5 of the Amlin Challenge Cup three points clear of Sale Sharks following their 47-18 win at the home of the reigning Spanish champions and welcome CR La Vila to Pelouse Amedee-Domenech in Round 4 for the quick-fire return fixture.

“We are very pleased with that win against La Vila and it wasn't the easiest of games,” said Antonie Claassen, the Brive captain and No 8.

“La Vila are a team who never give up and they kept going for the entire 80 minutes. Even though we beat them they never stopped playing some good rugby. We play them again on Thursday in Brive and it is very important that we also get a home win.

“This Spanish team was an unknown factor to us because they are newcomers in Europe and we had no point of reference. With our other Pool opponents – Agen and Sale – we have played them before so we know where we stand with teams like that.

“We know they are tough teams so against La Vila, in the first half in particular, we kept on our toes to avoid surprises and we are very happy to have won the game.

“The score might not reflect how well La Vila played because they scored two tries, one in each half. The last one came just before the final whistle which shows how committed they were until the very end.

“There is something about them, and you have got to give them credit for their performance.

“As the captain I am definitely proud of my team remaining unbeaten so far in the Pool because Agen, Sale and even La Vila are very good teams.

“If we are to qualify for the quarter-finals we have to stay top of the group and with the first half of the Pool phases completed it is important that we continue in the way we've played.

“The job is not done, there is still a lot of work to do, so hopefully we can keep on the same course come the second part and we will take each game as it comes.

“January will definitely be the key to determine our fate, with Agen doing so well in the Top 14 and Sale always a source of danger.

“We travel to Sale for our final match, which will be tough and winning over there will be no easy feat, while Agen are in better form now than they were earlier in the season and have won their last four matches in the Top 14.

“Having played at Brive for four seasons and competing in the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup I can see that the quality has increased a lot in both tournaments.

“And that is especially true in the Amlin Challenge Cup because now there is the added pressure of having to finish first in your Pool if you want to qualify for the knock-out stages so you have to be good in every single game.

“And then you get the chance to play against Heineken Cup clubs which is really nice and allows you to face the best and improve your own level of rugby. That happened to us last season when we ended up playing against Munster in the quarter-final which was an amazing fixture.

“We didn't know what to expect, Munster are such a big name in European rugby, and it was quite an awesome game to play. The only pity was that we lost but we all enjoyed the game.”