We welcome Castres to the Liberty Stadium, this evening, as we kick-off our European Challenge Cup campaign.
Europe is always an exciting part of the season and we are all looking forward to playing in a different competition, against teams from different competitions and testing ourselves against them.
It is an opportunity to test ourselves, as players and as coaches, and all of us at the Ospreys are looking forward to that challenge.
There are a lot of unknowns in Europe, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic, with a new and very different competition structure this season, along with the usual challenge of very different venues, teams and referees.
There will be lots of different things we have to deal and contend with but ultimately the question will be the same.
One of the big differences with the Pro14 and the Premiership is the travel element. Teams in the Pro14 are used to dealing with taking flights to play opponents, while Premiership teams travel by bus. That, of course, may be a factor why Pro14 sides are so successful in Europe.
We will face two very, very different challenges against Castres from the Top 14 and Worcester Warriors of the English Premiership. A competition I am familiar with. Both sides have very different approaches to the game and we will have to prepare for the very different challenges they will pose.
Castres are a very big team, playing a very abrasive style of rugby and it’s quite low-risk but highly effective. We know we have to be able to physically live in their world.
They will bring a very set piece orientated game and that will pose a real challenge to us in an area we have made some real strides in the last few months.
Worcester will pose a very different challenge. Firstly, the play on an artificial surface and really try to be positive with a game full of attacking threats. We know we will have to prepare to play on a different surface and we also know that Premiership teams are always very well prepared.
The Warriors will also have some local inside knowledge about us too, with Matt Sherratt and Jonathan Thomas, both former Ospreys, now part of their coaching team.
But the Challenge Cup is a cup competition and it requires a different approach. We know we have six games to get into the semi-finals and that means we cannot afford any mishaps or slip-ups because you don’t recover from them.
League rugby always gives you an opportunity to get back on the horse and give you a chance to rediscover form, but cup competitions are unforgiving and don’t allow that. That means we need to be consistent and competitive early in the piece. Every cup competition demands that of you.
We are establishing our own identity and a style of play and the challenge of European rugby will provide us with a good insight into if we are robust enough to handle the demands of a very different competition and against very different opposition.
This is all part of our journey of becoming the Ospreys side we want to become.
The team thank you for your continued support.