Sean Holley says he's looking forward to taking the next step-up in preparations for the new season when the Ospreys face a Regional Select XV on Tuesday evening.
The game at Aberavon’s Talbot Athletic Ground will provide the first run-out for the region since the players returned for pre-season training last month, and according to the Ospreys Head Coach, it will be a worthwhile exercise both on the pitch and off it.
“I’m really looking forward to it, and I think it’s the same for everybody here” he said.
“It’s good to get our first game under our belts with the new season fast approaching, and it should be a special occasion with us getting out into the community to play a game at one of the Premiership clubs in the region.”
Having opted for a shorter pre-season than usual to give the squad an extra week’s break over the summer, the fixture will be the first of just three games ahead of the Magners League kick-off on the first weekend of September.
According to Holley, that too was a conscious decision, based on the amount of rugby on the calendar for 2010/11:
“You quite often see teams playing a whole myriad of fixtures in pre-season, but we’ve had an extended break over the summer, taking into account the late end to the season we had with the Grand Final. We opted to return a bit later, which has given us a shorter pre-season than normal, and we’ve used our time well on the training field to build on what we did last season.
“Having said that, it’s important to get on the field to put into practice some of the things we’ve been working on. We can have a good look in a competitive situation. It’s also good to get out into the community, to take the team away from Llandarcy and do some work out at one of our local clubs. It’s pretty exciting really, and is the next step after all the skill development and physical work the boys have been doing since their return in July.
“After Tuesday’s game we have a trip to North Wales for a couple of days before travelling for an away fixture in Leeds, ahead of our first home game against Gloucester on the 21st. That will complete our pre-season programme, and we feel that’s more than enough games ahead of what will be a long season. We’re participating in three competitions, and we believe that we’ve got the preparation right when we consider the workload that certain elements of our squad have had, and will have in the coming months.”
With a Regional Select XV providing the first test of the summer, it’s something of a step into the unknown, with a side made up of players from Aberavon, Bridgend, Maesteg, Neath, Swansea and Tonmawr providing the opposition.
With Aberavon coach Simon King and Bridgend backs coach Craig Warlow having put the selected squad through their paces ahead of the game, Holley is predicting a tough workout for his players:
“We want to be tested and put under a bit of duress, particularly our younger players who are stepping up this year, we want to really have a good look at them on Tuesday. We are fortunate that we have strong regional teams in the Premiership and Division One, and Kingy and Craig will put together a team that will provide a challenge. It’s up to those boys to put their hand up as well, they are playing on a bit of a stage and have the chance to impress us.
“It’s a difficult one to call really, it’s a bit of the unknown. We’ll inevitably be fielding a team that hasn’t played a lot together and by the very nature of the Regional Select XV, they haven’t played as a team before. That lends itself to quite an exciting night though. It’s a chance for everyone to see what we’ve got out there in an Ospreys shirt and in particular, what people can look forward to in the future as there’ll certainly be a lot of young talent on show that I’m confident will go on to have a bright future with the region.”
It’s the second time that the Ospreys have faced a Regional Select side, following on from a similar outing at the Old Parish Ground in 2008. That occasion proved to be a huge success, and Holley is hoping for similar on Tuesday:
“We went to Maesteg two years ago to play a similar game and we were overwhelmed by the response. The people of Maesteg really welcomed us, they turned out in numbers for the afternoon. The boys all felt really welcomed, it helped to bring them closer to that particular community and we’re hoping for something similar in Aberavon.
“We’ve got a great relationship with the club, we’ve gone down there and trained with them a few times over the last couple of seasons and we’ve had some really constructive sessions. I’m sure that Kingy and Andrew John, and all the Aberavon people, will welcome us in and support us.
“It’s a good relationship that we have with the wider rugby community in the region. There are an awful lot of people working hard out there for the cause so it’s very important that we give something back to the people who support us, and this is one way of doing that.
“The vast majority of us here are from the area, we grew up and live in the local community. We want to develop local talent and make rugby stronger right across the region, at every level. We’ve shown over the last couple of years that we are serious about our ambition of being at the heart of rugby in the community, we’ve shown that we mean what we say about developing local talent for Wales, and the local clubs are supporting us and producing good quality youngsters to feed into our elite development pathway. We’re only as strong as each other.”
The game against the Regional Select XV takes place at the Talbot Athletic Ground on Tuesday 10th August, KO 7pm. It will take the form of four 20-minute periods, and admission is just £5 for adults, £3 concessions, with U11’s getting for free.