After Tuesday’s confirmation of the European Rugby Champions Cup schedule, the Ospreys are looking forward to facing off against some of European rugby’s genuine big hitters.
An incredible pool draw in June saw the Ospreys placed alongside some of the biggest clubs on the continent, with their three pool opponents between them boasting a bucketload of European silverware and French T14 and English Premiership titles.
The draw sees the Ospreys in Pool 2 up against the two 2016/17 Champions Cup finalists, Saracens defeating Clermont Auvergne 28-18 at Murrayfield to secure a second successive European crown.
Saracens also reached the domestic play-offs last season, losing 18-16 to eventual winners Exeter Chiefs as they unsuccessfully went for a hat-trick of Premiership titles.
Clermont Auvergne bounced back from Champions Cup heartbreak to secure the French T14 title, their first in seven years. They have finished runners-up in Europe’s top competition three times in the last five seasons.
The final team out of the hat was 1999/2000 European champions, Northampton Saints. Premiership winners as recently as 2014, the Saints have also won the Challenge Cup twice.
Kicking off the campaign at the Liberty Stadium against the French, the Ospreys then face Saracens away, Northampton Saints home and then back at the Liberty the weekend before Christmas, with the Rounds 5 and 6 return fixtures against Saracens and Clermont confirmed in December.
“When you look at the fixtures, the size of the challenge really hits you” admitted Tandy.
“It’s incredibly exciting though. You can look at it as a daunting prospect or you can look forward to it, excited about testing yourself against the very best in Europe and that’s the outlook we have.
“It’s not going to be easy in the Champions Cup, whatever the pool, that’s the nature of the competition. We worked hard last season to improve our position in the table and get back into the top tier of Europe and we did that, and this is a great reward.”
Some of the biggest names in world rugby will visit Ospreylia in this season’s Champions Cup, with the likes of Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Liam Williams, George North, Courtney Lawes, Morgan Parra and Wesley Fofana to name just a few set to grace the Liberty Stadium.
“To a man, the squad and coaches are genuinely excited about it. We are going to be having the French champions, the European champions and another big English giant, coming to the Liberty and we have to stand up to them. What a fantastic opportunity to come and see your team up against the very best.
“There’s also some fantastic adventures on the road, and it promises to be something special that we can all embrace together. There’ll be big occasions and we have to prepare for them, but when you look at those first few weeks of October, with Scarlets home in the PRO14, Clermont home and then a first ever game at Allianz Park, what a prospect for our supporters who will be behind us in big numbers.
“Isn’t that what we are all involved in rugby for, big days and big occasions?”
Admission for all three home games in the Champions Cup is included in a 2017/18 season membership, with prices starting from just £165 for 15 matches across Europe, the Guinness PRO14 and the Anglo Welsh Cup.
If you haven’t already, you can buy yours now at www.ospreysrugby.com/2017membership