The Ospreys will welcome back a host of international players into their ranks when they entertain Munster for a Magners League clash at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday (KO 4.10pm), following Wales and Scotland"â¬â¢s World Cup exits.
OSPREYS BOOSTED BY RETURNING INTERNATIONALS
Having featured in last weekend"â¬â¢s 13-13 draw at Edinburgh, Ian Evans and summer signings Ian Gough and Mike Phillips will be joined in the 22 by eight more players who have been away on World Cup duty, with Alun Wyn Jones the only one of the international dozen set to miss out after being given more time to rest after featuring in all seven of Wales"â¬â¢ summer warm-up and World Cup fixtures.
The returning players will give the region a real boost as they look to extend their unbeaten run to three games and climb the Magners League table before attention switches to the EDF Energy and Heineken Cups.
Veteran centre Mark Taylor, who has featured in four of the five league games so far this season, said that the return of so many key players to Ospreys duty would give the whole squad a huge boost:
"â¬ÅThe boys coming back into the squad are all quality players so it will obviously give everyone at the region a huge lift, team, coaches and supporters alike to have them back and available for duty. Maybe we would all have wanted them to have spent an extra week or two in France, as that would have meant that Wales"â¬â¢ interest in the World Cup would have been extended beyond the group stage, but the way it has worked out means that we are almost back to full strength a little earlier than anticipated.
"â¬ÅThe first month or so of the season has been tough as would have been expected given we had so many players missing, with a number of injuries hitting us as well. Some people will be disappointed with results to date, but the three defeats were all close fought games with just one score in it and we"â¬â¢ve now started to put together a little run which hopefully we will be able to extend to three games unbeaten against Munster on Sunday.
"â¬ÅThere"â¬â¢s definitely strong competition for places here in every position now that the boys are back with us and that will have a positive effect on the squad as everyone wants to feature on a match-day. The youngsters who have gained some valuable experience over the last five games will have benefited from that and they will continue to benefit from working closely with the internationals that are returning to us, whilst the more experienced players will be spurred on by the intense competition.
"â¬ÅThe season is still in its early stages at the moment and we still have everything to play for in the Magners League, and after Sunday we have two weeks to prepare for the EDF Energy Cup and a reunion with Mike Ruddock. Before we know it, we"â¬â¢ll then be focusing on the Heineken Cup so it looks as though it"â¬â¢s going to be a busy and exciting time for the players and the fans."â¬Â
The Ospreys will be looking for a second consecutive home win after seeing their sixteen month, 18 match unbeaten record fall to the Scarlets last month, as well as looking to maintain a 100% home record against Munster in the Magners League. The province, who currently sit third in the table after defeating the Dragons and Scarlets but losing to the Blues, have never won a Magners League game in Ospreylia. On their last visit back in April, a James Hook inspired Ospreys triumphed 20-12 on the way to a second Magners League title, with the young Wales star helping himself to fifteen points. As he prepares for a return to regional action following the World Cup, the young outside half says a repeat of that result would go down well:
"â¬ÅAfter Sunday"â¬â¢s game the Magners League goes on the back-burner for a few weeks with EDF Cup and Heineken Cup matches taking precedence, so it would be good for us to get a good win against Munster to keep us in touch with the sides above us, making sure we are well placed when the competition kicks off again.
"â¬ÅPersonally, I"â¬â¢m looking forward to getting back into action for the Ospreys, and I"â¬â¢m sure that the rest of the boys who have been away at the World Cup would say the same. Of course we"â¬â¢re all disappointed that we had to come home when we did, but what better way is there to show what we"â¬â¢re about than to help the Ospreys to a good result against a side like Munster.
"â¬ÅWe"â¬â¢ve got a very good record against them at home, and we got a vital win here last season that helped us towards the title so the same again this time is the order of the day. I got fifteen points then, including a try, but it really doesn"â¬â¢t matter who gets the points and how they get them, as long as we can get another important win that will boost our confidence, move us up the table and help us prepare for the challenges that lie ahead in the coming weeks when we take on the likes of Worcester, London Irish, Bourgoin and Gloucester."â¬Â
Ospreys fans are reminded that under the new match-day pricing system, Sunday"â¬â¢s match is a Level 1 fixture, with adult tickets priced at £16, £19 and £22 if purchased ahead of match-day, with a further 10% discount available to members. Any tickets purchased on a match-day are subject to a £2 supplement. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office, via the Ticket Hotline on 08700 400 004, or online at http://www.ospreysrugby.com/