As the Ospreys step up their preparations for Saturday's Heineken Cup clash with Benetton Treviso at the Liberty Stadium (KO 3.00pm), Ian Gough has told his teammates that they will need to be at the top of their game to avoid a "â¬Ëpotential banana skin'.
As the Ospreys step up their preparations for Saturday's Heineken Cup clash with Benetton Treviso at the Liberty Stadium (KO 3.00pm), Ian Gough has told his teammates that they will need to be at the top of their game if they are to avoid a 'potential banana skin'.
The only Osprey to have faced Treviso during his career, the 32 year-old second rower can point to his own personal experience as an up and coming youngster at Pontypridd as an example of the threat that the Italians can pose, having suffered defeat at the hands of Treviso in the same tournament ten years ago.
Gough was just 21 when he travelled to northern Italy for a final pool match against Treviso, with Pontypridd looking for a win that would guarantee a place in the knockout stages of a tournament that was still in its formative stages with no English involvement. As he recalls, things didn't go quite to plan:
"I think if anyone at the Ospreys knows what a potential banana skin this match then it will be me having lost to them once in my career before. Treviso had already beaten us at home, 22-13, but I think that had been written off as a one-off and we were still expected to win out there. I didn't play in the first game, but I was picked for the return match. I remember we took a strong team with the likes of Dafydd James, Neil Jenkins, Martyn Williams and Dale Mcintosh in the side but it just didn't happen for us and they won 33-19.
There was a harsh lesson there, that you can't afford to underestimate any opposition. Italian rugby maybe wasn't taken as seriously as it should have been then and we paid the price, but it's come along leaps and bounds since then. There's quite a few of us in the squad that have lost to the Italians playing for Wales, so we are well aware of the threat that Treviso pose and we won't be taking them lightly.
Maybe a few years ago you would be going into a game like this without much knowledge of the opposition but that's not the case anymore. We've watched their game against Perpignan where they pushed them all the way, and also, the match against Leicester where they were within four points with almost an hour gone so we realise that we have to be at the top of our game. The pressure will be on us a bit on Saturday as they will be underdogs and people will expect us to win easily but we mustn't approach it like that, chasing a bonus point from the first whistle.
We've got to go into the game in the right frame of mind, concentrate on doing things properly and if we get that right then the result will come. A lot of people are already talking about the Perpignan and Leicester games in January, but when you look that far ahead there's a big risk that you will fall at the first hurdle as you weren't paying proper attention."
Teammate James Hook has also sounded a word of caution to anyone anticipating an Ospreys walkover, saying:
"We've watched the videos of them in action and it's clear that they are a physical side who can play good rugby so we realise that the next two games will provide us with a real test. There's been a noticeable improvement in Italian rugby over the last few years, international and club sides, and Treviso are leading the way over there. The Dragons are no pushovers at home, so for Treviso to go there and win last season is a sign of their ability and should be a real warning to us.
We're in a good position in the group after picking up a bonus point at Leicester in the opening game, which is something we failed to do at Gloucester last year, and we are a point ahead of where we were after two games last time. These two games against Treviso are crucial, with Leicester and Perpignan hopefully taking points off each other over the next week or so, if things go well for us in our matches we could be leading the group going into the final two fixtures.
Obviously five points will be the target on Saturday but we can't go out and chase the game from the start as that's when things go wrong. We have to concentrate on getting the performance right, doing the basics, and if we do that I'm sure the points will come."
Tickets for the game remain on sale at the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office, online at http://www.ospreysrugby.com/ or via the Ticket Hotline on 08700 400 004.