Contrary to some reports, the Ospreys go into Magners League action against Newport Gwent Dragons on Friday evening (KO 7.35pm) knowing that a win over their Welsh rivals is vital if they are to secure Heineken Cup qualification for next season.
The recent victory over Leicester Tigers in the EDF Energy Cup Final did not secure the Ospreys place amongst Europe's elite for the
2008/009 campaign, despite comments made by a number of rugby pundits in the wake of the Twickenham success, as the tournament is only a route to the Heineken Cup for English clubs. With four games remaining in the Magners League for Lyn Jones' men this season, the double header against the Dragons are key to the Ospreys European hopes, as only the top three placed Welsh sides progress automatically to the Heineken Cup.
The Ospreys are currently the third placed region, six points clear of the Dragons and seven behind Llanelli Scarlets, so they will be taking nothing for granted as they take on Paul Turner's side twice in the closing weeks of the season, looking to not only secure a Heineken Cup place, but also, to leapfrog their local rivals from Stradey Park.
The Ospreys go into the match buoyed by a good record against the Dragons, with just one defeat in their last four matches against the Gwent based side, and having won all four home fixtures against them.
One player who has featured in six of the eight Gwent/West Glamorgan derbies to date in the colours of the Dragons is Ian Gough, who made the switch to the Ospreys last summer, and the second row says that he's looking forward to going into action against his old team-mates.
"I'm sure it'll be a little strange going up against so many familiar faces, but it's always the case in Welsh rugby, that you are playing against friends, ex-team mates and the like so it's not a unique situation. With only four professional sides in Wales, you'll always find yourself up against players that you've grown up with, or played alongside so it's not something that I wouldn't have faced before.
"I had a very happy four or five years there, but on Friday that won't matter as it's an important match that we both want to win.
From my time with the Dragons I know that the Ospreys is a match that they target, that they are always up for. They'll be strong and physical, so we know that the challenge for us is to make sure that we play how we want to, we impose our game plan on them."
According to Gough, after bringing silverware back to the Liberty Stadium in the form of the EDF Energy Cup, the Ospreys are keen to end the season in style, rising up the Magners League table in the process. He added:
"There is still a lot to play for this season, and first and foremost on the agenda is Heineken Cup qualification. At the moment, the two sides are sitting in the third and fourth slots, so we know that we have to win to relieve the pressure that the Dragons would be putting on us for that third place. We don't want to go into the play-offs, we've got a good side here and we want to qualify for Europe on merit, not through the back door.
"We've done well in the cups this year but it's been an indifferent season for us in the Magners League for a number of reasons. The campaign has certainly been disrupted by injuries and international calls, and our cup success has also led to postponements and matches being rearranged, but we've reached the final run-in now and we are still targeting as high a finish as possible. We definitely want to win every game remaining and if we do that, we could finish as the highest placed Welsh side, which given everything would be pretty pleasing."
Tickets for the match remain on sale at the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office, or via the Ticket Hotline on 08700 400 004.