Backs Coach Gruff Rees has challenged the Ospreys to “use the hurt of losing” to the French champions on Friday night as motivation to inspire them for the return at the Liberty Stadium next week
The Ospreys changing room was in a downbeat mood after an incredible late rally at Stade Pierre Antoine wasn’t enough to secure what would have been one of the region’s greatest ever European wins, but with the second game on the Heineken Cup double header against Castres just days away, Rees believes it provides the perfect opportunity for the team to send out a strong message about their strength of character.
“We’re obviously very disappointed at the result” he said.
“But the week we’ve had, the climate we are in and in particular only having two sessions to come together before coming away to the French champions, I think it’s a hell of an effort.
“It can’t be underestimated what we’ve put in tonight. The fight the players put into wearing that Ospreys shirt, both seasoned internationals, inspirational leaders like Alun Wyn, through to young players like Daniel Suter coming into the fold, I really think that we’ve got to be proud of that and then take it forward for the future of the Ospreys.
“Everyone is gutted in the dressing room. There are no pats on the backs there. They’ve put a hell of stint in, but they’re gutted because they’ve had an opportunity to win the game and they didn’t seal it. Effectively it puts us out of the competition but in terms of the long term planning and the good of the Ospreys, if we can try to use this as a springboard for next week and then going back into the Rabo and the Christmas derbies then it can be very important for the future.
“I think we probably dealt with the two yellow cards reasonably well, and to be fair to the referee I thought he was excellent tonight. I think you look back at all the calls and to be fair there was an accumulation of penalties. Aisea for the first one arguably stopped a seven pointer. You hope then that when the penalty count starts to go the other way that the yellow card for them might have been earlier but you can’t quibble over that.
“Considering the game we’ve just had, some of the hurt that we are feeling, we want to put on a performance next week in front of our fans that is equally effective in defence, but hopefully show more composure in attack to be able to control the ball and field position a bit better. That will allow us to avoid putting ourselves under pressure for long periods as we did tonight. That’s what cost us penalties and then points.
“It was always going to be a monumentally tough fixture, there’s no getting away from that. I said in the week ahead of the game that the calendar was doing us no favours. That was being positive, the reality is we’ve come into the game with just two meaningful training sessions and you could see there was parts of our game that wasn’t particularly slick and we put ourselves under pressure too many times. The flipside of that is when we got into those situations we rallied and showed the best guts and attitude you can ask from your team and we are proud of everyone in that changing room. It was a big squad effort that will hopefully stand us in good stead for the future.
“You can’t underestimate how special this group feel about wearing the Ospreys shirt. We play Castres again on Friday at the Liberty, and we’ve got something to put right for our own fans. We’ll want to use the hurt of losing that is in that dressing room now, in a close battle away from home against the French champions, to put them away on home soil. That is important, not only for pride, but to generate momentum for the Christmas derbies
“I can understand that there is a lot of negativity around the Welsh rugby landscape at the moment but we’ve got to try and be above that. I think that on the whole, we are showing that there is a future with this group. They all want to put the effort into the shirt and we can’t ask for any more than that. In terms of where we want to go, we can sharpen up on technical and tactical aspects of the game, but in terms of players identifying what we are trying to do, who really buy into what we are doing, we’ve got to put our head above the parapet and go for it.“