Richard Hibbard will become just the 13th Osprey to reach the 100-cap landmark when he takes the field to face Toulon in the 2010/11 Heineken Cup opener at Stade Mayol on Saturday aftermoon
The 26-year old hooker joins an elite band of players to have reached a century of appearances for the region since its inception, having made his debut for the Ospreys against Munster in September 2004, scoring four tries in his 99 appearances to date. Capped nine times by Wales, Hibbard has established himself at the region in recent seasons, signing a new five-year contract back in March.
With the century coming up this weekend, Hibbard says that he’s proud to be reaching the landmark, particularly with it arriving in such a big game:
“It’s not a landmark I ever thought I’d get to but it’s an achievement to be proud of. Getting to 100 games for the Ospreys means a lot to me. It’s my home region, it’s where I’m from and where I live so I’m proud to be able to wear the shirt.
“I can’t think of a better game to mark the 100 appearances though. It’s a massive occasion, Toulon away at the start of the Heineken Cup, it doesn’t get much bigger does it? Well, it could be a Heineken Cup Final, but maybe I can target making that the 120th game!
“They are the Chelsea or the Man City of the rugby world really aren’t they? They have a great squad, packed full of real talent, so we know it’s going to be a tough game. In order to be successful we know that we will have to play as a team, not as individuals, and if we stick to our game plan then we should be okay. We’ll certainly go there believing in ourselves.”
Hibbard’s century may have taken a long time in coming, with his debut for the region now more than six years ago, but in typical straight talking style, he says that he’s simply grateful to have got there after making more than 80 appearances in the white of Swansea earlier in his career:
“I didn’t actually think that I’d ever get to 100, at one point I believed I wouldn’t even be here” he said.
“I was playing regularly for Swansea, I probably got very close to 100 for them to be honest, and it looked as though I wasn’t going to make the breakthrough here. I was probably stuck in a bit of rut to tell the truth, but the coaches here saw something in me that they like, showed a little bit of faith in me and I haven’t looked back since.
“I can only put it down to working hard with Swansea and playing well there. I think that would have sent out the right message to the coaches. That’s probably something that I’d advise the younger boys here now, if they are sent to play in the Premiership they’ve got to play well there and show the right attitude if they want to succeed at the Ospreys.
“I learnt a lot when I was at Swansea, about rugby, about myself and about my own ability and without that experience I doubt I’d have achieved what I have. I’d like to think that I’ve earned my stripes here now. After reaching 100 caps I suppose I become a senior player, well hopefully anyway, and I’d like to think that despite still being relatively young, I can have some input and help to make some of the younger players better.”
Forwards Coach Jonathan Humphreys paid tribute to Hibbard as he reaches the century, saying:
“Hibbs has been here since the very start, and has been a kid that we’ve spent a lot of time in developing into a first class hooker. It’s a tribute to him that he’s picking up his 100th cap in such a big European game, we think a lot of him as a player and as a person. We believe that with the hookers that we have here at our disposal, it’s a big achievement for a player to be able to get a starting berth in games likes this.
“He’s somebody who lives and breathes the Ospreys values. He is a committed professional and a real character who is an asset to the squad and makes an extremely positive contribution to our environment, and we hope that he will be part of our squad for many years to come, reaching the 200 figure and beyond.”
As the 13th Ospreys centurion, Hibbard follows on from Barry Williams, Shaun Connor, Paul James, Duncan Jones, Adam Jones, Jonathan Thomas, Sonny Parker, Shane Williams, Andrew Bishop, Steve Tandy, Huw Bennett and Alun Wyn Jones.