Ospreys hooker Sam Parry says that being drawn to face European giants Saracens, Racing Metro and Munster in the Heineken Champions Cup is something the squad should thrive on.
The draw in Switzerland two weeks ago saw the Ospreys pulled out in Pool 2, alongside reigning European and English champions, and three-time kings of Europe Saracens, double winners Munster and Racing, twice runners-up in the last four years.
Rather than being daunted by the size of the challenge ahead, Parry says that everyone at the Ospreys should enjoy it:
“Stating the obvious, it’s a tough draw. There’s no getting away from it. I think it’s exciting for that though, particularly for someone like myself who hasn’t played international rugby. The teams we are drawn against, the environments we are going to, it’s probably as close as you can get to international rugby with your club.
“I think the whole group stage can prove to be a great experience for us, one that we have to enjoy as a squad and thrive on the challenge.
“Munster, Racing and Saracens are three of the top teams in Europe but when you look at last season, when we pick from our full strength squad and we are all on the same page, we’ve shown that we can produce quality and are good enough to challenge.”
A week into pre-season, minus the Wales RWC and U20 contingent, Parry has urged his team-mates to carry on the momentum of the end of season-run that saw the Ospreys win five from five to come up the rails in the Guinness PRO14 and claim the final Champions Cup spot:
“We are straight back to it. It’s an extended pre-season this year as we all know but that gives us a good chance to work on things with the group who will be at the heart of our season, to fit combinations together and build properly.
“When the season comes around then we can be fully prepared and ready to hit the ground running. It was a good end to the season and that positivity has carried over. We need to make sure we use that as a starting point for the new season, maintaining the same high standards.”
It was a stop-start campaign for Parry last time around, chest and bicep injuries restricting his game time which led to a short term loan to Bristol Bears in February to get minutes under his belt. He returned to the Ospreys in time to make the South Africa trip in April and featured off the bench in each of the last three games of the season, against Southern Kings, Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets, helping the Region into Europe’s top tier. Now he says his priority this summer is to ensure he’s in peak condition when the Guinness PRO14 returns at the end of September:
“I’m looking to have a big pre-season and get through everything that is thrown at me. After last season it’s important that I get my body right so that when the season starts I’m physically in the right place to allow me to be at my best in order to perform straight away.
“With the extended pre-season there’s no excuse. It’s a long summer, the coaches have their plans and the strength and conditioning team know what they want from us, but it’s up to me to put the hard work in to make sure I can deliver on the pitch when the rugby starts for proper.”