Rees: "Plenty of positives" in young Ospreys

Gruff Rees declared himself "pretty satisfied" with the way a young Ospreys team fared at Rodney Parade in Saturday evening's LV= Cup defeat.

The Ospreys had to settle for a losing bonus point in the Welsh derby, but Rees said the evening would have long-term benefits for the region thanks to the experience gained so many fledgling Ospreys in front of a typically hostile Dragons crowd in awful conditions.

Reflecting on the game at the post-match press conference, Rees spoke proudly of the way a young team had stood toe-to-toe with a more familiar looking Dragons line-up.

“There’s some learning to be done around our lack of composure, after the way we started the game and one or two key moments in the second half” he said.

“But in the greater good of Ospreys Rugby, we’re pretty satisfied in terms of exposing players to something meaningful, which it certainly was tonight.

“It was a local derby with the usual vociferous crowd. It meant that players had to deal with not just the step-up in rugby, which is a tough enough challenge itself the way the Dragons look to impose themselves physically and cause problems around the breakdown, but also the environment.

“It was a really good learning experience for a front five, who if you take out Dwyer at 28 had an average age in the other four below 21, we had young players littered through the backline and more young players coming off the bench. We’ve got to be pleased with the way they reacted generally.”

Rees acknowledges that the Dragons were always going to provide a stern test as he highlighted different facets of the performance that had pleased the coaching team:

“In some ways it was probably one of the toughest fixtures we could have had but it’s also one of the most pleasing ones, in terms of what we’ve got out of the night” said Rees.

“It gives us a little bit of momentum for next week, not so much in terms of the result but in a performance which while there’s plenty to work on gives us plenty of positives in terms of individual performances.

“There was some indiscipline around the park but a lot of that was just general enthusiasm and heat of the moment stuff. They brought so much of the physical effort that you want in an Ospreys shirt, we were really happy with the way the pack manned up. Around the set-piece game as well, there were some pleasing returns there, and even though it wasn’t the conditions to play fluid, running rugby, I was happy with the way the back three controlled the field in terms of some of the kick and counter work we do, and there were some threatening moments in the middle.

“We’ve got a longer training week now we aren’t playing til the Sunday, which gives us some time to hammer down the details tactically and we’ll have a real good go at Harlequins in Bridgend. It’s a game we’re really looking forward to now.”

Defeat means that although the Ospreys aren’t out of contention for the last four in the LV= Cup just yet, the odds are stacked against them, but Rees revealed that preparation for the game will remain consistent whatever is at stake next weekend. He explained:

“There’s still a mathematical chance of us progressing at this stage, and given we are last up next weekend we’ll kick off knowing whether we can still progress and what we need to do. We’ll do what we do each week and prepare a team to win a team of rugby, we’ll look at some of Harlequins strengths and areas we feel we can expose.

“We’ll treat it as a normal working week. With Steve, we’ve been adamant this year that whether it’s a high end European game or an LV= Cup game we want the same intensity in everything we do, the same training ethic from all our players, be they a British Lion or a 17-year old boy coming into the environment. It’s really pleasing the way we’ve got that ethos.”