Ryan Jones has laid out the size of the challenge facing the Ospreys this weekend when double European kings Leicester Tigers visit the Liberty Stadium.
The Aviva Premiership outfit arrive in Ospreylia on top of Pool Two a point clear of Toulouse, who left the Liberty empty handed last month, and five ahead of the Ospreys, so it really is a must win for the men in black if they want to keep their hopes of progressing alive.
As the build-up to the game continues, the latest in a long line of huge clashes between the two teams, the experienced Jones made it clear that the Ospreys are under no illusions as to the size of the task they face.
"It doesn't get bigger than Leicester at home and a must-win game" said Jones.
"It's been all the talk for us this week. We know what the challenge is. You are pitting yourself against a European heavyweight in your own back yard. This was why the competition was created so you have these fixtures.
"It's one the fans love. Hopefully, they will turn up in their droves to come and watch. And, hopefully, we'll be in a position to do something special. Leicester have physically dominated a lot of teams in the English Premiership and we are certainly aware of the challenge they pose. It was no different up in Welford Road a few months back. It took its toll on us.”
With both teams boasting a powerful pack and a strong scrum, Ryan unsurprisingly predicted the set-piece as being a key factor in deciding who wins on Sunday:
“I think it’s going to be a huge area, as it is in the modern game now” he said.
“It is a weapon. I feel the margins are getting tighter and tighter and people are looking for an edge. If you’ve got a good set-piece and a good front five it’s a vehicle to keep you in games. It doesn’t necessarily win you games, but it certainly allows you to build a game and keeps you in contention.
“It keeps the scoreboard ticking over, it gets you possession and field position and these are all things that are becoming more and more important in our game.
“There’s no doubt we are two teams that rely heavily on scrums. They are two weapons and I imagine it will be quite explosive. That’s were a lot of the battle is going to be.”
With the Ospreys trailing by five points in the pool, having gone down to a 5-0 defeat at Welford Road in October, the pressure is on the Ospreys to match the Tigers, but Jones is quick to play that down, stressing the need first and foremost is to win the game:
“Winning with a bonus point has to be the goal and the ambition but the reality of it is we have to make sure we are in contention at 50, 60 minutes and try and get a win.
“You look at the game in periods. It’s about the first 10, 15 minutes. It’s about making sure you get up to speed quickly and your systems are in place and getting the scoreboard ticking over. Heineken Cup games are 3, 6, 9,12. They are these sort of encounters.
“It’s like boxing. There will be certain period of sparring before we really get stuck into each other I would imagine. Leicester had a pretty poor game against Worcester last weekend, we had a pretty terrible game against Zebre, but it’s almost irrelevant really.
“You are going to see two very different teams this weekend I would imagine with two very different mind-sets.”
Speaking about the defeat in Leicester back in October, where an incredible last 10 minutes saw the Tigers score three late tries to secure a winning bonus and deny the Ospreys a losing bonus, Jones acknowledged that this weekend the team needs to play for 80 minutes.
"There was a lack of experience by us in that match and I don't think our game-management was great, either” he said.
“It cost us. That's taking nothing away from Leicester. Top-flight rugby now is about what you do when you get opportunities, whether they come in the first minute or the 79th. That's what makes the All Blacks the best team in the world. When they get opportunities they are incredibly clinical.
"Leicester are a team that bide their time. Rugby is an attritional game now. They got their chances late on against us and they were clinical with them.
"We played a part in our undoing. But that's sport."