As they prepare to kick off their defence of the EDF Energy Cup at the weekend, Ospreys skipper Ryan Jones says that the Ospreys have no intention of giving up their crown lightly.
The region have kicked off the season in style, rounding off the opening month of the new Magners League campaign with a comprehensive 43-0 victory over Ulster at the Liberty Stadium last weekend to leave them in top spot with an impressive record of four wins from the first five fixture. Now, they switch their attention to a month of cup rugby, with two games in the Anglo-Welsh cross border competition sandwiching two Heineken Cup fixtures during a four week period that will shape the rest of the season for the men in black, with Harlequins first up on Sunday afternoon (KO 3.05pm). The Ospreys swept aside all comers in last season's EDF competition, recording thumping victories over Mike Ruddock's Worcester at Sixways and London Irish at the Liberty Stadium, before a Gavin Henson inspired win at Harlequins rounded off the group stage. A semi-final demolition of Saracens at the Millennium Stadium secured a place in the final for the second year running, and a chance to gain revenge against Leicester Tigers, their conquerors a year earlier. More than 10,000 fans flocked up the M4 to Twickenham for the final, where tries from Andrew Bishop and Alun-wyn Jones helped the Ospreys to a 23-6 win, and Ryan Jones says that the players are targeting a return to HQ for a third time: "At the start of any competition the target has to be to win it, particularly when you are defending your title, and we have no intention of just handing over the EDF Energy Cup to another team. We've enjoyed a great run in this tournament, losing just once in our last eleven fixtures, and of course, we've had two memorable days out at Twickenham which I know that the fans really enjoyed. Going into the games this season, we have to be looking at repeating what we achieved last year, and we will certainly be giving everything to make sure that the cup stays in the Liberty Stadium. To achieve that it's important that we hit the ground running. In this competition, if you lose your first game then it can be very difficult to progress so we realise that we have to get off to a flying start. Harlequins have a strong squad with plenty of experience and familiar names and they've started off the season well so they will be confident coming here, but we don't intend giving up our unbeaten home record. We've talked about making the Liberty Stadium a fortress, we want teams to fear coming here to play us, and if we are going to manage that then we need to be beating teams like Harlequins. October will be a massive month for us, we've got four cup games in two competitions, three of them at home, and we've got a chance to really show what we are made of. Four wins out of four would put us in a fantastic position before the autumn international break, and with a large and noisy crowd at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, we'll be looking to secure the first win. I'm sure that the fans that enjoyed such a great day at Twickenham will be out in force again, and will be creating a tremendous atmosphere. They made a great noise in the second half of the Ulster match last weekend, so the request from the dressing room ahead of Sunday is more of the same please, it really does make a difference and it certainly lifts the players when the going gets tough." Ospreys Managing Director Roger Blyth is also looking forward to renewing Anglo-Welsh rivalries as the region. He said today: "Last season's EDF Energy Cup was a fantastic experience for everyone at the Ospreys, with memorable away days to Worcester, Harlequins, the Millennium Stadium and eventually, to Twickenham for the final. That match will live long in the memory of everyone who was there as the day where maybe, the Ospreys finally came of age, making amends for the disappointment of the previous year, and having secured the trophy in April, everybody within the organisation is keen to do what great champions do, which is successfully retain the trophy. It looks as though it should be cracking match on Sunday, between the current Magners League leaders and the third placed side in the Guinness Premiership. I know it's early days in the season yet, but those statistics alone show the quality of the two sides, and also, the size of the task facing us on the field. We want as many fans as at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday to get behind the team as they look to get their defence of the EDF Energy Cup off to a flying start. We realise that it can be difficult travelling to a game on a Sunday, particularly if you rely on public transport, but we have our new matchday bus service that we are currently trialling, that will allow supporters to get to the ground wherever in the region they are travelling from so hopefully, those buses will be full this weekend." Tickets for the match are now on sale at the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office, via the ticket hotline on 08700 400 004 or online at http://www.ospreysrugby.com/. The new match-day bus service will again be operating on Sunday, providing a low-cost and convenient transport option to supporters in all corners of Ospreylia. Costing between £3.15 and £5.00 per adult return, depending on collection point, with a child return priced just £2.40, the service will depart from Neath at 2.10pm, Gowerton at 1.55pm, Abercrave at 1.30pm, Oystermouth at 1.45pm, Port Talbot at 2.15pm and Pencoed at 1.15pm, with each route picking up at a number of stops. All services depart the Liberty Stadium post-match at 5.45pm. Tickets are available to purchase on a first-come, first-serve basis from the coach driver on the day (space limited to 49 seats). For full details of the scheduled timetable please check out http://www.ospreysrugby.com/