The Ospreys departed Llandarcy on Monday for a five day training camp in central France, with Head Coach Steve Tandy stressing that the trip is all about hard work as they prepare for their defence of the RaboDirect PRO12 crown won in Dublin at the end of May.
A 38-man playing squad will be based in the Puy-de-Dome area of Auvergne, in the picturesque town of Issoire, 25 miles from Clermont Ferrand, home of this year’s T14 semi-finalists Clermont Auvergne who will provide the opposition in the region’s first pre-season fixture on Friday evening.
Looking back at the first phase of pre-season and ahead to the trip, Tandy said that this week will prove invaluable in terms of the build-up to the new season.
“It’s an important trip for everyone” he said.
“Taking the group away to France into a new environment is a great way for us to kick on with our preparations for the new season. Being in camp for five days, away from any distractions, gives us some quality time to work on different things that will help us in the long term.
“There’ll be a good mix of players at different stages of their pre-season and a tough game at the end of the week to round things off. It’s going to be a tough but important few days.”
While it’s now well over a month since the core group of players returned to training, the international contingent are only two weeks into their pre-season which means there’ll be two distinct groups in the travelling party and Tandy revealed that some of the younger Ospreys are set to be rewarded for their efforts so far this summer with a seat on the plane:
“It’s been a great opportunity, not just for us as coaches, it’s great for the younger guys who’ve come in and mixed with the likes of Jonathan Thomas, Duncan, Goughy and Biggs. They’ve been able to see what professional rugby is all about and seeing either where they need to catch up or whether they are ready to fit into this environment. If I’m honest I have been really pleased with some of the young individuals that have stepped up to the plate.
“There’s been a lot of good young boys involved that we’ve been looking at who’ve stood up to the test and will be rewarded by going to France with us this week.
“The internationals will all come with us but they probably won’t take part in the game, they are still in the conditioning phase, so it’ll be a good opportunity for the guys who have done that six week conditioning to get up to speed, not only for this game or Bath at the Liberty on the 18th, but for Treviso away.
“There’ll be mixed goals for these guys. The guys who are later returning will keep conditioning, then the guys who are going to play we are looking at them getting a good hit out against Clermont. We’ll be giving some young guys who’ve worked really hard in this last six-week period an opportunity to show what they can do in the game against quality opposition.”
With the big kick-off to the new campaign edging ever nearer, Tandy knows exactly what he wants to get out of this trip – and for that matter the home game against Bath the following week and the remainder of the Ospreys pre-season work, and that is to ensure the team are ready for the many challenges ahead:
“We are building up into the season” he said.
“And we don’t want to be peaking in terms of conditioning in the first week. What we do want to be straight off from the first game, in every game we play, is to be really accurate in everything we do, be precise, and for the boys to be very clear in terms of understanding what we want from them.
“There’s still a month to go and games against Clermont and Bath will play a big part in us getting to where we want to be by the time we play Treviso.”