Eyasses prepare for WRU Under-16 final

The Ospreys Under-16 side take on the Scarlets in the final of the WRU Regional Age-Grade Championship at St Helen's on Wednesday evening (KO 7.15pm) in a match which age-grade boss Andrew Millward has described as a 'great contest'.

According to Regional Performance Development Manager Millward, the final is set to be a cracking match between the two sides who deserve their place in the showcase match. He said:

”The best two rugby playing teams in the competition are in the final, that is genuinely the case. The Scarlets play some good rugby, they have a cracking outside half and openside, but they are a strong team throughout and they play good rugby. We've got the potential to be that, and in glimpses we've shown it. We haven't been consistent and have thrown away games at times because of that inconsistency to be honest. It should be a good game. I hope the weather stays fine and I'm glad its at St Helen's where there is a nice big pitch for the boys to use the ball well. It promises to be a great contest and I'm really looking forward to the game."

Whilst keen to see his youngsters shine in a cup final environment, Millward is quick to point out that as far as age-grade rugby is concerned, the focus at the Ospreys isn't about collecting silverware, it's about providing the best environment for player development. He explained:

"It's always nice to win, it's a good habit to get into. But, does it matter whether we win the cup or not? Would it matter if we hadn't made the final? I don't think so. It's a nice day out but it's not the be all and end all. Externally, people measure you on wins, and a cup win would make people outside the organisation happy that we are heading in the right direction, without knowing anything about the extent of individual development work we are doing. Internally, the focus is different, there are structures and targets in place that are based around what we are doing with individual players, not around whether or not we win a cup. That's what matters.

"If we're honest, you can argue that we've under performed at Under-16 level this season as a team, but what are the reasons for that? The focus has very much been on individual development as opposed to unit work, which is what they will move on to when they step into the Under-18's. For our Under-16 side it's a very strong year in terms of talented players, but that brings with it its own problem if I'm honest. When you have a lot of very good individual players who in their own environments, schools etc, can win games for their team almost single handedly, when you then put them in a stronger team environment than they have been used to, then there aren't a proportionately high level of team players who hold the squad together.

"That will come next year, when they move to Under-18's when it becomes more of a unit focus as far as we concerned, when we have more time to work with the players on things like Ospreys patterns. That will come, it's not a concern for us, and it doesn't change our focus for them this year which is individual development."

Focussing on the match itself, Millward believes that the Eyasses have enough about them to secure the silverware despite not beating the Scarlets during the season proper:

"We've lost against the Scarlets twice this year, but I've no doubt that we've got the ability to win, if we perform. The coaches and staff have done some great work with the squad, towards the latter end of the competition in particular, to do with reviewing their performances which is certainly helping them. The Scarlets have got a couple of stand out players, and a lot of good players, which is probably why they have performed better as a team, whereas I think that every individual in our team is an outstanding player. That is reflected by the fact that we've got 14 players in the national Under-16 set-up, and the majority of them are likely to be starters. That says a lot in itself.

"I've no doubt that we've got the ability to win the final. But, if they hadn't have got there, would it have been the end of the world? No, it wouldn't have. It's nice to win it, but what's more important is that at the end of the season when I do my report, I can clearly show how these players have improved. The reality is that I'm here to develop future Ospreys, not win age-grade trophies, and if a high number of these players go on to become professional Ospreys I'd gladly lose a cup final to be honest with you.

"But, people like winning. You do like to see a 'W' on the board, but not at any cost. We'd certainly never put the win ahead of the individual development side of things at any time. But, saying that, its important that we ensure we bring young talent with the right attitude into this environment. While individual development is what's important to us, we want people who possess the desire to win and the desire to do the individual work needed to get the win. "