Lee Byrne returns to Ospreys action on Friday evening after being handed the number 15 shirt for the Magners League game against reigning European champions Leinster (KO 7.05pm).
It will be his first involvement since returning home early from the British & Irish Lions South Africa tour in the summer with a thumb injury suffered in training during the week between the first and second test, and the 29 year old says that his return can’t come soon enough. He said:
“I’m really looking forward to getting back out there on Friday. I’ve been back in training a few months now and I’m feeling in good shape, there’s no injury problems or hangover from the tour. I’ve put in the hours on the training ground, Mark Bennett is a great conditioning coach and he’s put me through my paces so the game really can’t come soon enough now. It’s always good to have a good break, but there’s only so much training you can do, there’s no substitute for game time and I’m ready to play.
“The coaches have managed it so that we are coming back in stages, Mike and Hooky have been in the mix for a few weeks now, Tommy came off the bench last Saturday and is starting along with me this week, and Alun-Wyn and Shane are just about ready as well. We’ve done a lot of work in training with Johnno, trying to nail new structures and calls, and the only way that we’ll know that we’ve got it right is by getting game time and working in a live environment. Practice makes perfect is the saying and it’s true. I can honestly say that I’m excited about getting out there and putting into practice the work that we’ve done over the last few months.”
Leinster will provide the a stern test, bringing with them a squad packed full of international experience, but Byrne says that they are the ideal opposition following the defeat against Ulster last weekend, and he’s hoping that the supporters will be behind the Ospreys once again come five past seven on Friday evening:
“Leinster are a formidable side, they are European champions and have won the Magners League. They’ve got real strength in depth, they may not have all their Lions out, but they have quality throughout the side. That said, we know what we are capable of, and regardless of what happened in our last game, we have the belief in our own ability to do a job and there’s no better way of moving on than playing against good opposition.
“We lost against Ulster, we didn’t play as well as we would have hoped for, but we have to accept that and move on, we know what we are trying to achieve and we just have to accept that was a setback. Every team loses, that’s sport, no game is a walkover or else nobody want to watch it. We know we failed to hit the standards that the supporters expect and that we expect of ourselves, so we have to lift our game. We have belief as a group in what we are doing and what Johnno has brought to the table, we have to look at this as a test of our strength and character. When you lose, that’s when everyone has to pull together, so hopefully the fans will be there for us on Friday night.”