Ospreys eye euro glory
January 18, 2010
The Ospreys' defence gangs up on Clermont's Elvis Vermeulen in Montferrand last Saturday © Getty Images
Ospreys captain Ryan Jones has issued a rallying call to his side and their supporters ahead of their decisive Heineken Cup showdown with Leicester Tigers in Swansea on Saturday.
The Welsh region suffered a demoralising 27-7 defeat at the hands of Pool 3 rivals Clermont Auvergne on Saturday and having experienced that electric atmosphere at the Stade Marcel Michelin, Jones has laid down a challenge to Welsh fans who are set to flock to the Liberty Stadium this weekend.
"You are talking about a fantastic arena in which to play rugby," said Jones. "It was colourful, it was loud and at times intimidating and I hope our fans can do the same this weekend. That's the environment every team in Europe is looking to create for every game.
"If we could create that at home we would be going some way to becoming one of the great teams in Europe. It's the old 16th man - but it helps when you are winning. The game was in the balance but we let it go away from us and went down 27-7. There was a lack of discipline but Clermont's kicking game was superb. They punished us in open play and from some of the penalties we conceded...we came off second best."
And Ospreys head coach Sean Holley echoes those hopes of his captain, adding: "I just hope we are going to get the same home support that clearly aided Clermont - I thought they were amazing and fantastic. Leicester are going really well and they will bring some fans with them. We know how tough it is going to be but, in recent games against the Blues and Munster at the Liberty, the fans have been vocal.
"We've noticed the difference and it has been beneficial. The home support in Clermont was amazing and clearly had a psychological effect on the game. But then everything about Clermont was to admire. Their pack was mature and heavy, Brock James at No 10 was outstanding and, as well as Dan Biggar played, he was up against a guy who was on top of his game."
The Ospreys have also won support from Clermont in their bid to secure a place in the last eight. The Top 14 side face Italian minnows Viadana in their final pool clash and are favourites to clinch a bonus-point win that will see them top the pool - and veteran Clermont stars Mario Ledesma and Aurelien Rougerie have backed the Ospreys to join them in the knock out stages.
"I think the Ospreys will beat Leicester and finish second," Argentine hooker Ledesma told the Western Mail. "Ospreys made too many errors to win the game [against us]. Our discipline was very good - we gave away only two penalties - but they made mistakes and gave us too many kicks at goal.
"We hope they won't play like this against Leicester next week. If they play as we know they can, Ospreys will be able to beat Leicester in Swansea."
Those sentiments were echoed by Rougerie, although the French international wing admits that the Ospreys are unlikely to have it all their own way against a formidable Leicester outfit.
"I don't know (who will win), but I hope it is Ospreys, because they are a great team with a lot of quality, with good forwards and quick backs," said the Clermont skipper. "It gives me a lot of pleasure to play against a team like that because we move the ball and play a lot against this side. I hope Ospreys win, but Leicester are stronger in the forwards. I think Ospreys backs' are better than those of Leicester but it is impossible for me to predict the outcome with any certainty."
"The thirst for knowledge has seen coaches break away from the confines of rugby and look to America." Tom Hamilton on the two-way learning process
On Saturday, New Zealand face the USA in a match that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Hamilton finds the atmosphere building in Chicago
Most modern rugby players will not know the name Ray Williams but they should be eternally grateful to him, writes John Taylor
With the All Blacks playing the USA Eagles this weekend, Craig Dowd says rugby is ready to make a professional breakthrough Stateside