Andrew Bishop is set to hand the Ospreys a welcome boost in the race for the play-offs by declaring himself ready for action.
His return will add some vital experience to the mix as the region pursues a place in the top four, after he has missed the last four months of rugby following surgery on his back to resolve the same long-standing issue that also kept him out of the final four months of last season.
After stepping up his involvement in training over the last few weeks he is now hopefully fully recovered and ready to don the black jersey once again, with four games remaining of the regular season. Speaking at the Ospreys training base in Llandarcy this week, his delight at being back in the mix is obvious.
“I’m pretty excited about coming back and hopefully wearing the jersey again soon” said Bishop.
“We are still looking to push for a top four slot so there’s everything still to play for. We want to get to the semi-final and then anything can happen. If I can help, if I can support the push in anyway between now and the end of the season I will.
“It’s been pretty frustrating, that’s fair to say. Doing the same thing again after doing it last year then getting back to full fitness is a bit of a disaster. It was disappointing, but I realise I’ve been pretty fortunate throughout my career injury wise so I’ve just had to take it on the chin, knuckle down, and hopefully this is the end of it.
“I haven’t had much experience of being stuck on the sidelines so it gives you a different perspective on things. Watching training from the touchline, watching the matches as a spectator, it gives you a chance to weigh things up and recognise what’s important, what your goals should be when you come back.
“It’s been good to look at things differently but the reality for a professional sportsman is that you want to be playing games. That’s the next challenge I’ve got to face as it’s going to be very difficult to get back into the team. Jonathan Spratt and Ashley Beck have been playing really well, even Dirko at the weekend has shown that he can be a very good centre. There’s competition for places in there and that’s good.”
The back-line that faced Glasgow last week had an average age of just 23 so there’s no doubt that the return of the second most capped Osprey of all time, with a wealth of experience, will be welcomed by the coaches who will be looking for him to provide a positive influence.
“Hopefully I can do that” he agreed.
“All the time I’ve been out I’ve had that 200 game mark in the back of my mind. I’m on 197 now and it would make me really proud to get to 200. People probably know that I’m not the biggest talker and I’l never be someone to lead that way. I like to just get out on the pitch and do my job, to work as hard as I can and hopefully lead other people that way.
“I realise that we’ve got a pretty young back line but it’s exciting watching them together and thinking about their potential. There’s some real talent coming through and the experienced people in the group, people like Biggs, Spratty and me, we’ve got a job to do to help them through.”
With just four games to go, starting with Leinster at the Liberty Stadium next weekend, Bishop remains defiant that the Ospreys have it in them to secure a place in the end of season shoot-out, even if he acknowledges that there is no room for any more slip-ups”
“Of course we can do it, definitely. Unfortunately we are going to have to rely on one or two other results but that doesn’t mean you give up. It was a game we should have won last week, but what we can do now is make sure we get our end right and get the wins we need. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs along the way, like Ulster losing in Cardiff last week, so we’ve got to aim to be in the mix by winning the last four matches. We’ll be doing everything we can to make sure we get that outcome.”
Tickets for the two remaining games at the Liberty Stadium, against Leinster on Friday 11th April and the final weekend fixture, versus Connacht on Saturday 10th May 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, as well as from Customer Services at Tesco stores across the region.