Andrew Bishop has acknowledged that the challenge he faces this season is to become 'consistently good' instead of 'averagely consistent'.
One of the unsung heroes at the Ospreys over the last few years, centre Bishop stepped into the limelight last season with a series of eye-catching displays culminating in what many saw as a man-of-the-match a performance against Leinster in the Magners League Grand Final.
2009/10 was very much a breakthrough season for the 25-year old, who after clocking up 124 caps for the region was also able to establish himself in Warren Gatland’s Wales squad, with his fine form in an Ospreys shirt rewarded with a regular place in the national squad as his consistency was recognised on a wider scale.
Now well into his pre-season build up ahead of the new campaign, Bishop says that the challenge he faces this year is to maintain the high standards he has already set, although he acknowledges that the competition for places means he faces a fight just to get his hands on a starting place:
“I’d really like to move on again this season from where I was last year” he said.
“I had a good season personally, and I’ve set the standard now. Playing in the middle with Hooky, I really enjoyed working alongside him and I think as a backline we really worked well together. It’s important that we kick on from there though, we can’t stand still or take anything for granted, we need to move forward as a unit and constantly look to improve our game.
“First and foremost for me the target has to be to get my starting place back. The boys who have been involved in pre-season have had a chance to make an early impression and the coaches will have seen what they have to offer. They will have the shirt and it will be up to players like me who may be starting a little bit later to really get the shirt off them.”
His reliability and durability led to Bishop becoming the youngest ever Ospreys centurion when he gained his 100th cap against Leinster at the Liberty Stadium last September, and although he is now firmly established as a crucial element of the Ospreys backline, he insists he still has plenty to learn:
“Every game I play I feel that I’m still learning. I want to go on and get a lot more caps at the Ospreys, but I realise with the players coming through and everything that there is always pressure on places and you need to keep improving if you want to play. I realise that I can still learn a lot more, that I can progress from where I am.”
If there was one game that stands out for Bishop from last season, for most observers it’s the Grand Final in Dublin where he found himself winning the battle of the centres against Leinster and Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll, a head-to-head that had a crucial bearing on the outcome of the game. He says that he wants to hit that standard regularly over the course of the coming season:
“Winning the league in the last game of the season against Leinster out there was fantastic, I really enjoyed that game. Beating Leicester in the Heineken Cup as well was a memorable game, it gave us a lot of confidence to kick-on. It was a good season, one that game me a lot of confidence personally.
“A game like the Leinster one does give me confidence, and makes you realise that the things you are doing in training everyday does work. Testing myself against top players like O’Driscoll is what I want to be doing, I want to prove to myself that I’m capable of big performances like that day. I’ve shown I can do it, I’ve got them in me, now I have to make sure they come more consistently.
“I realise that people call me consistent, but the next step for me is to not be reliable, averagely consistent, but to be consistently good, to produce performances like that Leinster one week-in, week-out.”