As the Ospreys renew rivalries with Leicester Tigers when they kick off their 2009/10 Heineken Cup campaign at Welford Road on Sunday afternoon, Shane Williams has spoken about the need to 'do the right things' if they are to achieve success in Europe's premier tournament.
Five times finalists and twice winners, Leicester are once again among the favourites to lift the trophy, and Shane says that if the Ospreys can learn from the past experiences of the Tigers, and other winners like Munster and Leinster, it will stand them in good stead:
“Leicester are always there or thereabouts in the big competitions it seems, it’s almost second nature for them, they always seem to do very well. That’s where we want to be as a region, we need to learn from the likes of them and Munster, who have done the hard work, they’ve tasted disappointment and learnt over time what it takes to win the Heineken and moved on from there. They’ve learnt the importance of doing the right things, and how they need to make the right choices. We are moving in the right direction but it is something we need to do.
“We’re always answering questions about ‘time to deliver’, but there’s no easy answer. As a squad, we’ll always give 100 per cent, we’re always working towards reaching the consistency of performance that will allow us to reach the latter stages of this competition. There are plenty of sides that going into the weekend have hopes of winning the competition, and there are plenty of sides that you would say are in with a shout, but only one will win it.
“Teams like Munster and Leinster had to go through a lot of ups and downs before they won it, and there are a lot of good sides who’ve never won it yet. It’s something that gets said year in, year out, that we are capable of winning the tournament, it’s what I want and it’s what everybody at the Ospreys wants and it’s what we’re all working towards. The coaches have made a lot of changes to the way we want to play this season and it’ll take a little bit of time to get everything spot on, but we are have faith in what we are doing and believe that if we do the right things, we’ll get our reward.”
Shane and his team-mates return to the scene of last season’s Heineken Cup opener, exactly a year after a 12-6 defeat at the hands of the Tigers. In a tight pool that also included French champions Perpignan and Italian champions Benetton Treviso, the Ospreys had to ultimately settle for second place in the pool and an away quarter-final against Munster, despite a win in the reverse fixture at the Liberty Stadium, as Leicester progressed through to the final, where they were narrowly beaten by Leinster.
Shane is expecting a similarly tight game when the Ospreys travel back to the East Midlands, and he added:
“We’re very excited going into this year’s competition, and we’re excited about a big game on Sunday. We went there for the first game last year so we know what to expect, there’ll be a big, noisy crowd getting behind them that we’ll have to deal with, on top of the challenge on the pitch. That’s part of the task when you go somewhere like Welford Road, the crowd really does act like a sixteenth man and they create a real atmopshere. They’ve extended the ground since last time, so there’ll be even more in there this year, which will all add to the occasion.
“We’ve certainly played each other enough in this competition and the EDF over the years, which has led to a competitive rivalry between us. We know that Leicester are a very good side, they have a reputation as one of the best team’s in Europe and we respect them for what they’ve achieved over the years. They perhaps haven’t had the kind of start in the Guinness Premiership that they would have hoped for but they are still winning games and we know that they are still a very good team that will certainly provide a real challenge for us on Sunday. Our games against them over the years have generally been very close with just a score between us and we’re expecting something similar again, I’m sure it’ll be a tight game with not a lot to separate us.”