Richard Fussell hailed the character and spirit shown by a young Ospreys team on Sunday as they rounded off the Anglo-Welsh Cup with a bonus point win over Aviva Premiership leaders Wasps.
The Ospreys included six players in the starting fifteen with less than five appearances at this level, five of them in a youthful back line, while a late injury related reshuffle on the bench meant that there were a further two players still to make their debut before today.
Acting Backs Coach, Fussell, said that the achievement of the young charges in ending Wasps 14 month, 20 game, unbeaten run at the Ricoh Arena, was something for everybody at the Ospreys to be proud of.
“As a coach, I’m absolutely delighted with the way it’s gone today” said Fussell.
“We’ve brought a young squad here and asked them to go for it against a very good team, and the reaction we had from the group was absolutely first class.
"Today was a massive physical battle for us and a lot of our youngsters put their hands up with some really good performances, and for us to get the bonus-point try at the end was outstanding.
“You look through the line-up and see names like Ratti, Aubrey, Price, Thomas, and the two wingers, Baker and O’Flaherty, there’s not 30 Ospreys games between them and they acquitted themselves excellently. Then you have a young hooker (Ifan Phillips) coming on for his debut when we are up against it in the last 10 minutes. That gives you a sense of what we’ve achieved today but is typical of the way this competition has gone.
“There have been nine debuts in this competition this season yet we’ve won three games, two with a bonus, and a losing bonus point in the other game. That’s a huge plus for the Ospreys, however you look at it.”
Ultimately, the Ospreys missed out on a place in the last four, Exeter pipping them to semi-final spot on tries scored after they too ended their campaign with 15 points, with a bonus point win on the road against Bristol today.
However, Fussell said that wouldn’t change the way the Ospreys would view their campaign, which has always had the focus on development from Round 1 to Round 4 on Sunday.
"We did everything we could” said Fussell.
“Nothing changed for us through this tournament. Our plan was our plan. We wanted some of our youngsters to follow on from the British and Irish Cup with some good performances, to give them some exposure at this level, seeing if they could live with the increased intensity. Those boys have developed really well, which shows the strength in depth we are developing in our squad.
"It’s an opportunity to blood some youngsters. Some of our boys really held their hands up, so when we go back into league competition in the PRO12 we'll have some headaches in the coaching staff around selection.”
The Ospreys return to Guinness PRO12 action on Friday night when they face Zebre in Parma, before back to back home games that could prove crucial in the race for the play-offs, with Munster at the Liberty on Saturday 18th February (5.15pm KO) before Glasgow visit on Sunday 26th for a 1.05pm kick-off.
Tickets for both those home games are on sale now and if you buy a Munster ticket, you can get a Glasgow ticket for half-price. Buy yours now at www.ospreysrugby.com/buytickets