As week one of pre-season draws to a close in the Llandarcy sunshine, Sam Cross said he’s looking forward to helping what he calls a “close-knit unit” build on a successful end of season run-in.
The Olympian and former Wales sevens star featured heavily in the winning run that secured the Region a spot in the Heineken Champions Cup for the forthcoming campaign and, despite a number of high profile absentees over the coming weeks due to the Rugby World Cup, Cross believes there is genuine reason for optimism.
“Tips’ said to the team at the end of the Scarlets game, “this isn’t the end, this is the start of something”, and he was right” said the twice-capped Welsh international.
“What we all went through last season brought us together, it galvanised the playing group and a really good tour of South Africa made us a really close-knit unit.
“That reflected on the field in the end of the season run, the boys were going to dark places for each other, and it’s really important that we drive that now with an exciting younger group across pre-season to maintain that positive vibe.”
The Champions Cup draw has seen the Ospreys pooled with some of European rugby’s biggest names, placed with double winners Munster, twice beaten finalists Racing Metro and reigning champions Saracens.
Cross has happy memories of European action against Sarries having been almost plucked from nowhere to make his debut in a classic encounter at Allianz Park two years ago.
On that occasion, the Ospreys came close to recording one of the great European upsets, eventually going down 36-34 as Cross marked his first senior fifteen a side appearance with a late try that secured two points for the Ospreys. It was a debut to remember, as he recalls with pride:
“When I saw the draw I thought ‘brilliant’, as it’s a massive opportunity. I think all the boys will say the same. You want to play against the biggest clubs on the biggest stage, with a big TV audience.
“My European experience of Sarries is really good memories of the last time we played up there. I’m looking forward to possibly going back there. I came in fresh on a fast track, it was a really nice night with good conditions, and it really suited me.
“We just missed out on the win but we threw the ball about, played some great rugby, I scored that late try and I think I got back on the bus afterwards thinking ‘this is easy’!”
Two years after first linking up with the Ospreys, and now in his third pre-season with the Region, Cross wants to play a bigger part on and off the field this time around:
“I played a lot of games last season, but plenty of them were off the bench, so the target for me now has to be the starting jersey” he said.
“There’ll be opportunities to nail down a spot with boys away at the World Cup, long international periods across the season, so I think there will be opportunities for a few of the boys, me included, to put our hand up and show what we are about.
“Those of us who are here for pre-season have a lot of responsibility on our shoulders and need to put in a big shift while the internationals are away. We’ll have a big influence on how the Ospreys perform this season and we have to make it a positive influence.”