Pro 12 Season Preview – Ospreys
It was a season of two halves last year for the Swansea based Ospreys. Underachieving yet again in the Heineken Cup but clinching a scintillating victory away from home against Leinster to be crowned the Rabo Direct Pro 12 Champions. There’s no hiding from it, the Ospreys are proven winners in the league, and yet they still fail to really stamp their potential dominance on their opponents.
Contrary to the media hysteria of a “mass exodus of players from Wales” the Ospreys, same as all the other regions in Wales, have been doing a good job of bringing through their academy players and securing those of their stars, like Adam Jones, for the long term future. Add to that their new signing of a returning player, Jonathan Spratt, who had fledged the nest a few seasons ago, then it’s all good news for this region in bringing Welsh talent back to Wales.
There’s not been much news on the signing front at the Ospreys this summer as they work hard to secure themselves financially, and what with a recent winding up order hanging over their heads, it’s a job easier said than done. Their innovative season ticket deal seems to have sparked some life into the fans of the region though, and with them having finished last season on a high, the Ospreys team must be hoping they reap the benefits of this.
A word of caution must be applied to this side though. Many times before they’ve shown promise only to fail to progress further, and they must, under the motivational guidance of new coach Steve Tandy, build on last season’s successes. It will be a task easier said than done, and I for one feel that the loss of Paul James could come back to haunt them. For me in seasons passed, he has been one, if not the most important player to them, or at least on a level with mighty Adam Jones. Ryan Bevington having long shown glimpses of a superb talent will have to take the opportunity afforded to him with both hands – he has very big boots to fill.
As with all the regions, in the Pro 12, negotiating the international periods will be critical for the Ospreys, but it’s a task that they are well equipped to face. Their forwards, with or without their internationals, are a fearsome unit, with many able deputies seen in the guise of the likes of Duncan Jones. If they see themselves safely through the Autumn Internationals and 6 Nations, I can only see them once again reaching the play offs. Retaining the title must surely be their aim.
Some (myself included) often say they come from the wrong side of the Loughor bridge, but a firing and strong Ospreys can only be good for Wales. From their rivalry with the other regions (especially the Scarlets), to the players they produce for the international team, a winning mentality in rugby is priceless. Long may the success of the Ospreys continue if no other region is capable, if only to encourage the other regions to compete and to bring that winning edge to Welsh rugby, that at international level at least, is sometimes so difficult to find.
My players to watch: Ryan Bevington, Ashley Beck, Jonathan Spratt, Dan Biggar, Justin Tipuric.