Ospreys bosses today confirmed that the region will participate in a series of development matches during the 2008/09 campaign after receiving the go ahead from the WRU.
Union chiefs gave the thumbs up to the Ospreys plans to organise up to eight matches during the season for what will effectively be a second-tier side, allowing the coaching staff to blood young Ospreys alongside some of the more experienced players, away from the pressure of league and cup competition. The WRU has approved the Ospreys plans for six games initially, with the scope for adding two further fixtures at a later date. Matches will be a mixture of home and away fixtures, with the home matches being played at grounds around the region.
Director of Rugby Kevin Hopkins welcomed the news, saying:
"To get the go ahead for these fixtures is excellent news for the region. This is something that we've been working towards for a while and we're very pleased to be able to confirm that we will have a series of development matches next season. We see these type of fixtures being crucial to our plans, providing regular rugby for squad players and the young talent from the Academy, as well as giving an opportunity for players to step up from the Premiership in a controlled environment, where individual performances are what matters most and where league position or cup survival aren't at stake.
"We trialled such a set-up towards the end of the 2006/07 season with two friendlies against Newport Gwent Dragons and Worcester which were a huge success, both in terms of the development of young players, and also, in creating strong links across the region with the clubs who hosted the fixtures. These development games are perfect for blooding up and coming talent. Players like Ben Lewis, Tom Smith, Craig Mitchell and Ed Shervington were all given an opportunity last time to step up and show us what they are capable of, and coaches and supporters alike were given plenty to think about.
"We are in the process of speaking to other clubs and regions with a view to putting together a fixture list for an Ospreys Development side that will allow the coaches regular opportunities to bring these players together for meaningful fixtures, and also, allow supporters to keep an eye on the next generation of talent as they take the next step towards becoming fully fledged Ospreys."