We’ve rounded all the key points from Matt Sherratt’s press conference at Llandarcy on Monday, looking ahead to the return of the Guinness PRO14, with Friday’s big clash with Leinster, at the RDS Aren
Here’s what he had to say about…
Creating Strength in Depth:
- It’s been nice to have some time with this group of players. Obviously we lost players to Wales, but that always gives someone else an opportunity. We’ve seen a definite improvement in the squad, and now we’re looking forward to going over to Dublin.
- It’s the same with every team in this competition, but none more so than Leinster. They lost 18-19 players. But they’ve got a very deep squad. Our squad probably hasn’t got that depth yet, but what we’ve found over the last few weeks is that, Glasgow was disappointing but Connacht was a very good result, we’ve seen some growth in the players. It’s given us the opportunity to play some players that haven’t had much rugby, but also to blood some youngsters like Harri Morgan and Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler. This experience is invaluable.
- You never come up against a poor Leinster side. They’ve got huge depth in their squad, they’ve got a very good academy system, excellent schools in their school’s system, and there’s a conveyor belt of talent it seems. Whenever you play Leinster, its always a tough game, regardless of who’s wearing the shirt because they are a well coached side.
- We’re looking pretty good injury-wise; we’ve had a few people return of late. Keelan Giles has come back in the last couple of weeks, and taken off where he left off. Sam Cross is back from injury, which is another big bonus and adds some competition in the back-row. So we’re in a pretty healthy spot.
- Scott Williams, in terms of his fitness, is not ready for this week, but he is pretty close. He will be looking to return over the next couple of weeks.
Next Couple of weeks:
- It’s probably the toughest period of the season, we’ve had probably the best two teams in the competition back-to-back: Glasgow, and Leinster. After Leinster we’ve got Zebre, Stade Francais twice and then we’re into the derbies, so it’s 10 weeks of full-on top competition.
- It’s who we want to be competing with. We want to play the top European teams, the top teams in the competition and then, nothing beats the Christmas derbies. It’s a tough run for coaches and players, but it’s a very exciting period as well. These next 10 weeks will probably define the season. If you get a couple of results against Stade Francais, this puts you into the mix within Europe, plus the derbies, all of which starts to shape the second half of the season. It’s vitally important.
Ospreys with Wales:
- Owen Watkin got 5 turnovers in his game for Wales against Tonga, but that’s his point of difference, he’s very good at ripping ball.
- I think in general, all of the boys that have gone away have come out with some credit. Aled Davies did really well when he came on, Adam Beard has been really consistent and obviously, Justin Tipuric has had MOM on two occasions.
- I think against Australia, it was five of the Ospreys pack, so it’s a credit to the players and it’s been really good to see them go onto the International stage, and show the form that they were having with the Ospreys.
- In credit to the national squad, they haven’t been afraid of giving young players a chance. In the last 18-24 months, they’ve blooded people and I know that Nicky Smith is a little bit more experienced, but he’s been getting a start. I think they’ve really rewarded regional form and what that’s done is improve younger players and those fringe players, so that’s bred some really healthy competition.
- Looking this week against South Africa, it must be a nightmare trying to pick the team, which is a position obviously the coaches want to be in. There’s some really tough calls for the coaches, but going into the World Cup year that’s exactly where they want to be, and credit to them for building the squad as they have.
- I think its just in the press and media is where Justin Tipuric hasn’t had sufficient plaudits, but knowing him for a short while, I don’t think he craves that anyway, he’s happy to kind of be in the background. He’s genuinely the best player I’ve ever coached; he can do a bit of everything. He’s good attacker, he’s a good defender as he’s shown over the last couple of weeks, he can win ball in lineouts, he can get turnovers. For me, he’s the best all-round player I’ve ever coached, by a margin as well.
- He’s got 60 Caps and he’s a British Lion, so he’s done alright. I think there’s more of him to show with Wales, he’s probably got a lot of plaudits for his defensive work in the last couple of weeks, which is obviously Sam Warburton’s point of difference, but I think he has filled into the role, won turnovers and been a real destructive defender.
- For us at the Ospreys, we use him slightly differently. We use him as first receiver off lineouts, and he’s probably in the middle of our attack a little bit more, but I’m sure Wales will show that over the next 12-18 months. So while he’s been brilliant, I think there’s another 20-30% that he can show as well.