Preparations for the new season step up a gear this week with the Ospreys in action against Lyon on Friday night, and Director of Coaching Scott Johnson says that he's looking forward to getting down to business again.
The Ospreys will spend time at a training camp on the banks of Lake Geneva in Switzerland ahead of a game that Johnson says will be an important building block for the team as they gear up for the new campaign, with a game against Russia to follow on Sunday 21st August at the Liberty Stadium (KO 3.00pm) before kicking off their RaboDirect Pro12 campaign with a home match against Leinster on Friday 2nd September (KO 7.05pm).
Speaking about the two pre-season games, Johnson said:
“Pre-season is a process, with the end goal of making sure we are fit enough to play by the time the first game of the season comes around in September, and these two games are all about making the next step along the way.
“As long as we have the physical ability to play the game in the way that we intend to play it, which will be quite quick, and the players can keep up the pace then I’ll be quite happy. We’ve got a lot of youngsters with plenty of energy so we’ve got to harness that in the right way, getting the right balance.
“These two games are going to be a good test for us, and some of the young kids here have a real opportunity to stand up and show us what they can do. It’ll be quite a test for some of them and I’m looking forward to seeing this group of players together.
“At this stage of pre-season we are still finding out a lot about ourselves. We’ve got a lot of young kids involved with us who we are still finding out about, and we think that hidden in this group are a few guys who are going to come through well this season.”
The opening pre-season game at Hermance RRC on the French/Swiss border is against a Lyon side preparing for their long awaited return to the French top flight after clinching the Pro D2 title last season. They open their season with a trip to Clermont Auvergne on August 26th, and Johnson is expecting them to almost at full speed.
“Their season starts a week earlier than ours so I’d expect them to be further down the road than we are” he explained.
“That’s good for us as it means they are likely to be fully loaded and gives us a genuine benchmark to gauge our performance against.
“We’ve got two very different opponents in our pre-season games, who will ask different things of us. Lyon, whilst a French club, has a very multicultural flavour, and I’d expect them to play an expansive game with a bit of flair while the Russians will be very physical, and very good at the set-piece.
“They’ll be two very good tests and will get us into the right shape for the Leinster game on September 2nd. We’ve arranged these matches with that date in mind and I think that we’ll learn a few things about this group in these two games.
“With the opposition being two very different types of teams it means that there is a lot more work done in preparation as we have to make adjustments to our game. We see these fixtures very much as part of our ongoing preparations for the real thing and what we’ll get from the next two weeks is we’ll be able to see exactly where we are, in terms of conditioning and rugby wise.”