Early Osprey Promise.
Well, this was never intended as an up to the minute sports blog, but given that BBC Wales are showing the first Welsh fixture of the new rugby season, it seems as appropriate to write about the Ospreys – Leinster match as much as anything else. First things first though, we are no longer dealing with a Magners League, but a RaboDirect league, whatever a RaboDirect is? Not sure that you can drink it, or were it to be a drink, that you would want to consume it with a name like that anyway – some toxic energy drink perhaps? Then again, Magners tastes dreadful anyway, so in terms of sponsors it’s no real difference, apart from sounding a little sillier.
Anyway, enough about sponsors, and more about rugby, and all in all, the Ospreys will be fairly satisfied with their performance this evening. All the clubs in this competition, not just the Welsh ones, will be suffering in terms of quality, with so many starters away for the world cup, but the Ospreys look amongst those best equipped to deal with the player losses. This is due to a combination of both a positive home grown youth development policy that seems to have been developed, but also thanks to the large number of Wales rejects who have been left behind in Osprelia. Gough, (J) Thomas, Mefin Davies and company are certainly no spring chickens, even the likes of Ian Evans are not overly sprightly, and so the Ospreys have plenty of international experience left in their ranks.
That being said, in the first half, it was the new generation of Ospreys who led the way. Rhys Webb, Ashley Beck, Tupiric and company, all offered a sense of hunger and urgency which has been very noticeably absent in recent years. While the second half of this game was frankly dreadful, the first half saw a sense of intent and enjoyment from the Ospreys, probably not seen for about three seasons. Leinster were far from good, and that must be acknowledged, the strength in depth that this club used to have does not seem to be on display anymore, especially in a directionless backline, one too many in New Zealand seems to be the case here. Yet, the Ospreys in the first half were very good, and could they manage that for 80 minutes, they could well be the team to beat during the world cup months.
However, without wanting to be overly critical, certain players still seem to be shadows of who they would like to be, notably Dan Biggar. Left behind by most other regional outside halves, Biggar continues to do well going forward, but much of his defence continues to look poor and unpredictable. Developing the ball/arm ripping tackle so loved by Hook these days, Biggar ended up letting more people through, than dislodging any balls. Playing like this, without the complete game he so longs to produce, he will remains down the pecking order, and short of any further international caps. Jonathan Thomas remains an awkward player to watch as well. Certainly not an international second row, certainly not an international No8, the only two positions he appears to be playing these days, and with far too many players ahead of him at 6, it’s difficult to see how he will come back into a regular Wales starting role as well.
That being said, there is a very long season ahead of us, and many things will change over the coming months. Certainly though, and despite failing to secure their bonus point, the Ospreys will leave the game with a sense of confidence and a degree of satisfaction following their first 40 minutes. Continue to produce what was on display in the first half of rugby, and you would imagine the Ospreys will be very well placed by the time their Welsh squad members come home.