Having started last season as a Heineken Cup novice with just one appearance off the bench to his credit, Ashley Beck finished the campaign as a proven European performer, his four tries in six starts catching the eye and helping him earn international recognition with Wales at the end of the season.
This time round Beck looks like one of the first names on Steve Tandy’s teamsheet, and as he prepares for Friday night’s opening fixture against Benetton Treviso at the Liberty Stadium (KO 8.00pm), the 22-year old from Skewen says he’s looking forward to testing himself against the best in Europe once again.
“We’ve got big teams in our group” said Beck.
“We want to challenge ourselves against the best and in Toulouse and Leicester we’ve got two of Europe’s best, along with Treviso who have shown they can beat the best. It’s an exciting group. You’ve got to be up for it, you can’t afford to switch off for a split second.
“It’s exciting. As players you want to compare yourself against the top teams and this is our chance. This is where we test ourselves against the best players from different countries.
“We’ve got the best team in Italy, the best in France and the best in England. They are all tough games and we’ll be able to see where we are.”
Beck is likely to start at centre alongside Andrew Bishop, the pair developing a partnership that is serving the Ospreys well, and Beck paid tribute to his midfield colleague for the help he is giving him on the field.
“It’s building on the end of last season, me and Andrew had a good run together and we’re enjoying playing together. Dan is playing well, it’s enjoyable playing with two boys who are on form at the minute. There’s a good mix to our game at the moment.
“Andrew’s been around regional rugby a long time now and played with some good boys. When you are in tough, tight games he knows what to do. Just to have that experience alongside is great. Andrew is such a big personality in defence as well, he does bring that extra bit, it’s good to have him there.
“We work quite well together. Andrew’s not given the praise he deserves sometimes. He’s skilful, sleight of hand, and we try to work off each other as best we can.”
It’s the second time that the Ospreys have come up against Treviso this season already, having suffered a 12-6 reverse in Italy on the opening day of the PRO12 season, but Beck says the team has been improving week on week since then.
“Out there in Treviso earlier in the season we weren’t clinical enough. We got over the line but I was held up. Since then we’ve been looking a lot sharper with ball in hand and have been able to put together a few wins. Last week against Zebre, first half we played well as a team, everything we tried came off and we dominated the percentages, territory and possession. We showed how clinical we can be. Second half we let it slip. There’s always something to work on, and we’ve got a chance to build this week.”
Tickets for the game are on sale now at the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office, online at www.ospreysrugby.com/buytickets and via the Ticket Hotline on 0844 815 6665, with prices starting at £20 (adults) and £5 (kids).