With the countdown to the new season well underway, Cai Griffiths has revealed that he is hoping to earn an extended run in the starting line-up over the coming months.
With the enforced absence of British & Irish Lion Adam Jones through injury in the early part of the campaign, the battle for the number three shirt at the Ospreys promises to be an intriguing one, with Griffiths facing challenges from Craig Mitchell, fresh from his senior Wales debut in the summer, and new signing Ross Davies who joins the Ospreys from Sale Sharks.
With more than 60 appearances for the Ospreys to his name to date, Griffiths is the more experienced of the trio competing for the shirt, but he acknowledges that he will need to raise his game in the coming months if he is to establish himself as Adam’s replacement in the starting line-up. He said:
“It’s a big season for me personally. Unfortunately Adam is out until Christmas, but it’s the nature of the game that when a player picks up an injury someone else has to step in to replace them and I’ve got the opportunity now to strengthen my claim for a run in the number three jersey. It’s going to be a real battle between me, Ross and Mitch, we all want to put ourselves in the position where we get the nod, but hopefully, I can show the attributes over the next few weeks and months that the coaches are looking for, and maybe start fulfilling my potential.
“As a player, you have to take the chances when you get them. Hopefully, I’ll get the game time early on, starting with the pre-season fixtures against Leeds and Gloucester, to show what I’m capable of. I’ve got to set myself the target of starting the early Heineken Cup fixtures. I’ve played quite a bit in the competition over the years and played three times last season but I’ve not started a game yet so that’s my aim for the first part of the season.
“I realise that what’s important, what I have to do first up, is concentrate on my own game, perform week-in, week-out in training and in matches, show the right attitude and attributes, and hopefully, the rest will fall into place.”
With Leeds Carnegie the visitors at the Liberty Stadium this weekend for the season opener, Griffiths says that he can’t wait for the real action to begin – if selected:
“It’s an exciting time, pre-season is going well for us, it’s been very hard work but I think we are getting there as a squad and are ready for the first game now. Training has been good, Johnno is having a real influence over what we are doing and we’ve got a new fitness coach in place as well who has some new ideas that complement the excellent stuff that we were already doing here and it’s all positive.
“There’s no substitute for pitch time though, you ask any of the players and what they really want is to be playing rugby so Saturday’s game can’t come soon enough. The rugby sessions have gone pretty well for me, now I just have to sit and wait to see if I’m going to be involved against Leeds at the weekend.”
This summer saw Griffiths left behind in Ospreylia while his fellow tighthead Mitchell was selected for Wales’ tour of Canada and USA, where he picked up his first two senior caps. The former age-grade cap from Bangor says that the disappointment he felt at missing out has been dealt with as he looks forward to the new season:
“As a team-mate and a friend I was chuffed for Mitch that he got the call for the tour, but on a personal level I was obviously disappointed that I missed out, that the hard work I put in during the season didn’t lead to recognition. But, I’ve already put that behind me, I’ve talked through what I need to do this year. What I do for the Ospreys is what matters, I just have to work on getting it right this season personally, and I’ll see what happens then. I can only focus on my own performance, anything else depends on so many other things I’ve got no influence on, so I’ll be concentrating on performing to the very best of my ability in an Ospreys shirt and I’ll take whatever comes.”