Having captained the Ospreys to victory in their pre-season fixture against Russia, Ian Gough said that it had been a positive afternoon for the team as they prepare for the opening Rabodirect PRO12 game against Leinster at the Liberty Stadium in less than two weeks.
The European champions visit Ospreylia on Friday 2nd September (KO 7.05pm), and the Ospreys signed off for pre-season with a seven try win over the Russian national team. Despite a 27 point winning margin, Gough felt it had been a difficult afternoon, with the visitors providing a good test for the Ospreys.
“It was pretty tough” he said.
“We knew from Russia’s last couple of games that they come out really strong and you have to wear them down to get the dividends at the end. It was a nice sunny day so it was hot for the boys out there, and the first run-out for a lot of us, so it was nice to get such a big win, to score some good tries, and for some of the youngsters to really put their hands up as well.
“Our eyes are still wide open about where we are and there’s still quite a bit for us to do, a few kinks to be ironed out, but I thought it was quite a positive afternoon for us. It’s always good to have a really physical challenge like that in pre-season, it’s given us a better idea of the areas we need to improve on.
“The likes of Hanno and Ashley Beck who both scored today have come on leaps and bounds. Ashley has grown from the shy little kid in the background to really being someone who is on the front foot and throwing his weight about. We call them kids but they’re not, their men, and they’ve come through our system and really have a chance now.
“They can’t hide behind our internationals as they aren’t here, so it’s up to those who are here for the start of the season to front up. These youngsters have put the first footsteps towards doing that in this game.
“We had a good run last season when the international boys were away and these players did very well. We picked a lot of points up in that phase which gave them a lot of confidence, that belief that ‘okay, we can do this’ and it knocked the edges off them. They’ve carried that on and I think they realise that ‘hang on, this is our chance now to really put our hands up, we’re going to be looked at and taken really seriously’. As a player coming through, that’s all you want.
“We need to take the nuts and bolts out from the analysis of this game now and see where are. I thought our structural play today was pretty good but there were parts where we could have been better. We’ve got two weeks to iron out the kinks, we’ve got a training camp in Penzance this week, and everything will be about getting the processes right ready for that game against Leinster. It’s a big game, a great one to start the season with.
“They’ve got a big squad, and there’ll be a lot of past internationals, seasoned players, that give them that older edge, that bit of experience. They are a quality side, they are used to winning and they will come here for the first game of the season looking for a win. It’ll be an epic, I’ve got to be honest. The pitch is in an amazing condition at the moment and it’s a pleasure to play out there.
“Like Leinster, we’ve got experienced heads out there, but the great thing is we’ve got youth in the squad that is bouncing, showing great enthusiasm, which drives us on. We’re long in the tooth and have done a few seasons but their freshness rubs off on us, while our experience helps them and I think that’s a good combination for the new season.”