IT wasn't just the Biarritz squad of 2020/2021 that were feeling the nerves in a penalty shootout against fierce rivals Bayonne at the start of June, Barry Maddocks was anxiously waiting to find out if his next challenge would be testing himself in the Top 14.

After four seasons with the Dragons, the backs coach had committed to heading to France before knowing the fate of his new team.

Biarritz had a tense finish to the season after scoring at the death to beat Vannes in the Pro D2 play-off semi-finals before defeat to Perpignan in the final.

That meant they had one last shot at glory – a derby against Bayonne, who had finished one off the bottom of the Top 14.

The rivals were locked at 6-6 after extra time and the final spot in France's top flight was settled by kicks at goal, with former England back rower Steffon Armitage slotting the winner.

That means Maddocks will be part of a Biarritz club preparing for tussles with Toulouse, Clermont Auvernge, La Rochelle, Racing and Bordeaux-Begles when they return for pre-season training next week.

"When I took the job the thought wasn't probably that it would be in the Top 14 but they have arrived there," admitted the new backs coach.

"That's a massive challenge and staying up will be the first aim, then you are able to push on. I'm looking forward to it.

"It was interesting to watch from afar but Top 14 was never really spoken about with (director of rugby) Matt Clarkin and (head coach) Shaun Sowerby, it was all about what I could bring to the team and how that fitted in with what they have been doing."

Welsh-speaker Maddocks is now taking French lessons and is plotting how he will get his messages across to a multi-cultural team.

Landing a job with five-time French champions is exciting, yet it wasn't a no-brainer.

Maddocks will leave wife Sian-Elen and children Cian and Erin in Wales while settling in the south-west of France.

"I wasn't sure initially even though it is a big job, that's because of the nervousness of going over there while my family are over here," he said.

"But my wife was super supportive – she said it was a great opportunity and told me to grasp it."

Maddocks spent four campaigns with the Dragons after arriving from Bath as skills coach in 2017.

He was promoted to attack coach by Bernard Jackman in his second year but returned to his initial role last season after the arrival of Gordon Ross.

"I had some really amazing experiences at the Dragons," said former Aberavon centre and coach Maddocks, who had previously worked with England's sevens teams, Wales Under-16s and Hartpury College.

"I came from Bath where you could pick a second team would be strong – the 10s were George Ford and Rhys Priestland while there was Sam Burgess and Kyle Eastmond (at 12).

"You could reel off two teams as good as each other but the Dragons was a completely different challenge and they were in a different place.

"It was pleasing that there was steady progress, not as quick as we would have liked but investment has gradually increased as the years have gone by.

South Wales Argus:

"It was great to see the players get better, whether someone like Aaron Wainwright, Jared Rosser, Leon Brown or Matthew Screech.

"They have come along on that journey and then there has been the ability to purchase a couple of key players on top of that like Jonah Holmes, Sam Davies, Gonzalo Bertranou and now Will Rowlands, adding on to what has been developed.

"There were some tough times but also great times, like qualifying for the European quarter-finals off the back of good performances and the first Judgement Day win.

"They were all markers of small steps and it was a brilliant learning experience for me, I feel that I am a better person and a much better coach with more understanding about the differences of environments."

Maddocks will aim to put those lessons to use against France's best in the formidable Top 14.