Ospreys chiefs have sent out a rallying cry to their supporters ahead of a big week of cup rugby at the Liberty Stadium that sees the region cross swords with English and French opposition.
After kicking off this season's EDF Energy Cup with a crushing 47-16 victory over Mike Ruddock's Worcester side last weekend, the Ospreys now entertain London Irish on Sunday (4th November, KO 4.10pm) looking to secure a win that will see Lyn Jones' men put one foot into a second successive semi-final, before welcoming Bourgoin the following Saturday (10th November, KO 5.30pm) for the opening fixture in this year's Heineken Cup competition.
Despite enjoying the highest crowds of all four Welsh regions over the last two years, with an average of 9,820 during the 2006/07 campaign, there has been a noticeable drop in crowds at the Liberty Stadium during the opening weeks of this season with some of the Ospreys biggest names absent on World Cup duty. However, with the Ospreys now back to full strength, and hitting top form in such spectacular style against Worcester, bosses at the region are anticipating that the missing supporters will be back in numbers this weekend.
Roger Blyth, Ospreys Managing Director, commented:
"â¬ÅCrowds so far this season have been below what we have come to expect at the Liberty Stadium but in many ways it is understandable. It was noticeable across all the regions that crowds were down during September and early October, and with so many players away on World Cup duty, it wasn't entirely unexpected.
"â¬ÅMaybe, as far as supporters are concerned, their focus was on what was happening in France and not in the Magners League, maybe they didn't appreciate the many quality players who were still pulling on an Ospreys shirt week in, week out. Whatever the reasons, crowds were down and we anticipated that this would be the case prior to the start of the season so we have been able to budget for it.
"â¬ÅHowever, we are expecting it to be a completely different scenario for the two games coming up at the Liberty Stadium. We are now back at full strength, are undefeated in our last four and as anyone who watched the Worcester game will testify, are playing an exciting brand of rugby that gets supporters out of their seats."â¬Â
According to Blyth, the next week is a vital one for the Ospreys, with two home wins neccesary if the region's ambitions for the season are to be achieved. He commented:
"â¬ÅThe next two games at the Liberty Stadium will see us testing ourselves against top level opposition from England and France in cup competition, so all the ingredients are there for two cracking matches and we anticipate that crowds will rise accordingly. Both matches will be crucial to our plans to progressing in the cup tournaments this season.
"â¬ÅVictory over London Irish will set up a potential pool decider at Harlequins in the EDF, and if we progress we will be just one game away from a return to Twickenham. More than 10,000 supporters enjoyed a memorable day out there earlier this year and I'm sure that they would love to go back there next April and see us claim the cup to make up for last season's disappointment. Likewise, having gone so close to progressing in the Heineken Cup last season everyone will understand the importance of getting off to a flying start against Bourgoin, to give us every chance of succeeding this time around.
"â¬ÅOur success last season, in reaching the EDF Energy Cup Final and reclaiming the Magners League title, was based on a fantastic home record that saw us going the whole season unbeaten at the Liberty Stadium. That record may have been taken from us already this season, but we have lost just one home game in our last twenty-one, which is still an impressive record, and we want our home form to be the basis of even more success this time around.
"â¬ÅWe want Liberty Stadium to be regarded as one of European rugby's toughest venues for a visiting team, and in order to achieve that, we have to see the stands full of passionate Ospreylians getting behind the side. Last season, it was clear at times that the players thrived on the atmosphere that was being created, none more so than the last minute winner against Sale in the Heineken Cup opener, when the crowd were willing the players over the line.
"â¬ÅIf we can get a similar crowd for the two big games coming up over the next week or so, and they can create a similar atmosphere, then I'm sure they will go a long way to helping Lyn Jones and the players ensure that it is a very profitable week for the Ospreys."â¬Â
Under the new match day pricing structure introduced this season, Sunday's match against London Irish is a Level 2 fixture, with adult tickets available from just £10, if purchased in advance of match day. The Bourgoin game is a Level 1 fixture, with adult prices starting at £16. Tickets for both games are now available to buy in person at the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office, via the Ticket Hotline on 08700 400 004 or online at http://www.ospreysrugby.com/. Any tickets purchased on the day of the match itself are subject to a £2 surcharge.