We welcome Zebre as we return to the Liberty Stadium, this evening, and we will need to reacquaint ourselves with the stadium because it’s been a while since we have been there, but it’s exciting to be back there and to play on that surface again.
The last time we played Zebre we came second but it did highlight that we need to be an every time team. It was an uncharacteristic performance from us, particularly in the first half, but we responded well in the second 40 minutes.
If we have ambitions to be competing at the right end of the table we have to control what we can control much better than we did in the first meeting with Zebre.
We learnt a lesson about ourselves from that game and there has been a lot of good things develop in our performances since that encounter.
We have seen greater understanding, greater clarity and greater expectation develop since then about where we are and where we want to go as a team. The key is delivering that on the pitch.
Michael Bradley, the Zebre coach, is a creative coach and always has been and we saw that during his time with Connacht. Zebre asked questions of us physically and we expect the same from them this evening.
Obviously, all of us at the Ospreys were devastated for Dan Lydiate and his family with the knee injury he sustained playing for Wales and he will undergo an operation and we expect to see him back as soon as we can.
We were all so pleased that Dan got a chance to represent his country again. People often get to their thirties and get forgotten about but he demonstrated regularly that he deserved his opportunity and represented what he is as a player and delivered to a consistently high level and forced himself back into the international reckoning.
Dan needs to take all of the credit for that, along with our Strength and Conditioning team, who all helped Dan achieve his international call-up. His desire was key to all of that, and he is what we want from an Ospreys man, and what we should all aspire to.
From a results point of view we didn’t want the recent break in the fixture list because we had some real momentum, but with a young group of players, who we have championed, it was a chance to regroup.
We were creaking a bit before the break and had picked up some injuries, and with the international call-ups we have had, we know we aren’t going to be perfect when we resume playing but when you pull on an Ospreys shirt you have a responsibility.
We have had players go away on international duty, like we did in the autumn, and the challenge is for the players selected to fill those shoes and perform.
Players stepped up during that period before and we are expecting the same and we are looking forward to getting back out there and of meeting the challenges ahead.
We always ask everyone to be the best version of themselves like we did with the friendly against the Cardiff Blues, and we saw players who haven’t played get some valuable game-time.
That’s was important for those players because some of them haven’t played for 18 months and just to get out there was a chance for them to do what they love.
It was also a chance to see how robust those players were and they will have learnt how physically demanding elite rugby is and how tough it is and that is part of their development and education.
The Blues fielded a much more experienced side than we did but it was another step for the younger players at the Ospreys and valuable part of their journey.
The team thank you for your continued support.