Ian Gough notched up his 50th Ospreys cap during the Boxing Day win over the Scarlets.
The experienced second-rower has racked up the appearances since signing for the region in the summer of 2007, with his durability and hard work making him a reliable member of the Ospreys squad over the last two and half seasons.
After reaching his half century, he spoke about his pride at reaching the landmark figure, saying that the fact that it came in an away victory at the home of the region’s big local rivals made it particularly satisfying. He said:
"I’m really pleased to get there. You reach plenty of milestones in a long career, and to get to 50 caps for the Ospreys is one that I’m proud of. To reach it in a good away victory, against our local rivals in a Christmas fixture in front of a full house made it a particularly memorable day.
"I think it’s fantastic, there was a full house at the Scarlets, a big crowd at Cardiff, more than 30,000 people decided to get out of the house and watch live rugby at the two games instead of staying at home to watch it on TV. As a player, that’s the type of crowds that you want to play in front of. I think they were both good games as well, with plenty of entertainment. There were tries scored, there was controversy as you’d expect in these type of games, there was passion on and off the pitch, and things going on that all help to add to the Christmas pantomime type of feeling to the game. I think everyone who made the effort to get along to a game last weekend will feel they were rewarded for doing so. For me, it was great to be involved in that match Boxing Day, which I think had a bit of everything, and the fact that my 50th appearance for the Ospreys was topped over by a good win at the home of the Scarlets made it even more memorable."
The focus is now firmly placed on the second festive derby fixture, when Cardiff Blues come to the Liberty Stadium on New Year’s Day, and Gough believes that the team from the capital will come to Ospreylia buoyed by the way they saw off the Dragons challenge on Sunday evening. He said:
"We did the double over them last year, but that’s obviously not going to happen this season as they got one over us at their place a couple of months back. They played particularly well that night, so we know that we’ve got a job on our hands New Year’s Day. They’ve got a very good squad, packed full of internationals and Lions, and having got a great win against the Dragons where they played particularly well in the second half, I’ve got no doubt that they will come to the Liberty Stadium confident and believing that they have what it takes to do the double over us. We don’t want that, we want to keep our good recent run of results going. If that is going to happen, then we have to keep on improving and raise our game to another level again. They aren’t travelling down on New Year’s Day to just make up the numbers, they will have a win in their sights so we will have to meet them full on. It promises to be another exciting, passionate local derby and we’re all excited about it."
With more than 12,000 tickets sold for Friday’s game by Tuesday afternoon, and another bumper Bank Holiday crowd in store, Gough called on Ospreys fans to provide more of the outstanding support for their side that was witnessed last weekend at Parc Y Scarlets, saying:
"It’s fantastic to go to an away game, and all you can hear in the last 10 minutes is your own fans. We’re under no illusions, we know that it’s up to us to put the fans in a position to do that, we’ve got to do our bit to silence the opposition fans and to give our support something to sing about, and we managed to do that well on Boxing Day. We had superb travelling support for the derby match, as we do wherever we go.
"If we can get the same vocal support, passionate and noisy, turning up in numbers for the Blues game, then that’ll be great. It makes a hell of a difference when you’re on the pitch and the opposition fans are being drowned out by the sound of your fans chanting and cheering. We are fortunate to be representing the people of the region, and when you hear them behind you like that it definitely adds something to your game and makes you very proud to be an Osprey."