Ospreys must go to “next level”

With three huge back-to-back games against Irish opposition over the next three weekends, Cory Allen is backing the wider squad to deliver while the Ospreys’ Wales boys are on Six Nations duty.

Allen, who celebrates his 26th birthday today, says that the selection policy this season has provided the core group of players with game time and opportunity to thrive and he believes that as a result, the Ospreys are in good shape as they prepare for key games against Ulster, Munster and Connacht minus a substantial international contingent.

“They are huge games” said Allen.

“It’s always a big test, an important time of the year, when the Six Nations is on and the internationals are away. It’s about how the squad reacts to being without those players.

“Throughout the season the coaches have been good about following their plan for the squad, rotating players with this period in mind and giving game time to squad players who wouldn’t necessarily be playing regularly.

“I think that we’ll get the reward from that planning now. The team that will be available for this next block of games has played together against good opposition and we’ve seen performances improving across the season. We’ve got to take that to the next level now.

“It’s about the bigger picture. I understand that as a fan you have certain expectations week to week. Rotating the squad means the boys are more comfortable playing with each other, they’ve had that exposure for when they are needed. People aren’t coming in cold for the first game of the international window.”

Allen has been one of the most consistent performers for the Region this season, his 16 games to date putting him on course for the highest number of appearances in a single campaign throughout his career. His five tries so far this campaign is already a career high for a season.

As his on-field influence grows, Allen acknowledged his improved form this season while pointing out the work that still needs to be done.

“I don’t think it’s any one thing to be honest”  he said.

“The team has done better this year than it did in the first part of last season and that definitely helps. Staying injury free is definitely a big factor, allowing me to have a big run of games. I’ve played the most games to this point of the season that I think I’ve ever done and that’s a huge positive for me.

“We had a good start to the season and I was involved with the team and that breeds confidence and belief I suppose. We are where we need to be, which is top three in the table, and it’s about how we push on and make the most of the work we’ve done so far, starting with this block.

“The goal is to finish in the top three and we are on course for that but it’s very tight now. We’ve got three Irish teams next, who are always tough opposition regardless of what time of year you play them. We know what we’ve got to do individually and as a team. If we can deliver the performances we want, and get a good run of results, it will set us up for an exciting run-in, with derbies against the Dragons and Blues, and games in South Africa to finish the job.”