Ospreys Head Coach Sean Holley says he is looking forward to stepping up preparations for the new season when Leeds Carnegie visit the Liberty Stadium this Saturday (KO 2.30pm).
The visit of the Guinness Premiership newcomers will provide the first opportunity for the Ospreys coaching team to cast their eye over the squad in a match situation ahead of the new campaign, and Holley says that the fixture, along with next weekends trip to face Gloucester, is a vital part of their preparation for the coming season. He said:
In previous seasons we have chosen to take on only one pre season match, with there already being so many fixtures during the regular season, However with the emergence of a lot of our young talent within the squad, and the lateness of the arrival back to training of our Lions players, then the fixtures against Leeds and Gloucester will be excellent preparation for what will no doubt be a busy and exciting season. The fixtures will however run alongside our pre-season conditioning and technical preparation and the players training week leading up to these fixtures will not replicate a normal match week.
The physical preparation programme that our new Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Mark Bennett has implemented has been outstanding and we are already seeing some great results. The time has also come for us to put into practice a lot of the technical and tactical processes we have been building on from last season through the summer to this. The new coaching team has gelled well and this will be the first opportunity to test out some of the systems we have put in place, and to review and analyse the players progress in the process.
Im delighted to welcome Andy Key and his team to the Liberty Stadium for our opening pre-season fixture. Leeds were the opposition for first ever European Cup fixture the Ospreys had back in 2003, so it is fitting that on their return to the Premiership, we welcome them to the Liberty Stadium as we prepare for the new season.
We are pleased to welcome back Ben Lewis and Nikki Walker from long term injuries this weekend, and we welcome new arrivals in the shape of Jerry Collins, Barry Davies, Tom Isaacs, Liam Davies and Ross Davies for their first run in an Ospreys shirt. I am sure they will receive a warm welcome from our fans on Saturday afternoon. Many of our emerging youngsters have another chance to impress and we are delighted to be able congratulate our newest Wales internationals Craig Mitchell and Jonathan Spratt.
In light of their workload over the last season and the summer, some of the players are still in a conditioning phase that does not warrant playing just yet and we still have a number of players recovering from injuries and operations, including Shane, Jonathan Thomas, Ian Evans, Huw Bennett and of course Adam Jones. Our Lions produced some fantastic performances this Summer and we are very proud of them.
Theres an excellent spirit in the camp at the moment, the players are enjoying their pre-season, working very hard, and looking forward to getting the new season underway. The players are really proud to be able to represent the region and are hopeful that, once again, they will receive the backing of the Ospreys support in good numbers throughout the coming season. Have no doubt, they will be giving everything theyve got on and off the field on behalf of the region in the coming months.
Finally, on behalf of everyone at the Ospreys I'd like to wish Richard Hibbard our sympathies and wholehearted support following the recent sad and sudden loss of his mother.