Steve Tandy is looking forward to three days to remember at the Liberty Stadium after seeing the Ospreys drawn with Saracens, Clermont Auvergne and Northampton Saints in the Champions Cup.
The Ospreys’ Head Coach was reflecting on a draw that could be described as the very definition the cliched ‘Pool of Death’ with both of the 2016/17 finalists, two of the giants of the European game, the first sides out of the hat alongside the Ospreys and former European champions Northampton.
He could be forgiven for looking at it as daunting challenge, but his reaction was far from that.
“For supporters, players, or as a coach when you look at these three games, it’s exactly what you want” said Tandy.
“I’m sure the supporters are all talking about it, getting excited, and we’re no different. I’m expecting three great occasions at the Liberty, big crowds, and hopefully we can produce three performances to back that up.”
Saracens have won the last two Champions Cup finals and haven’t lost in Europe since 2015, while also winning two of the last three Aviva Premiership Finals, while Clermont were crowned French champions less that a fortnight ago when they defeated Toulon in the final. In Europe, they were the beaten finalists in 2013, 2015 and this year.
“We want to pit ourselves against the best and that’s definitely the case in this group” Tandy added.
“We’re excited about this pool and are already looking forward to testing ourselves in a group which is probably as tough as it is possible to get. We missed out on this competition last season so we are pleased to be back in it, against the very best. Given the clubs we are up against it, we’ll probably go in under the radar, but like we saw two years ago in this competition, if you win your home games anything can happen.”
Going through the Pool 2 opponents one by one, the size of the challenge facing the Ospreys in 2017/18 becomes crystal clear, if it wasn’t already. Tandy continued.
“Saracens’ record speaks for itself. They’ve not lost in Europe for two years, back to back champions, they’ve been in the Premiership semi-finals every season for the last eight years and won it three times. You won’t find better, anywhere in the world.
“They are up there with the very best ever. Their squad is unbelievable, they do what they do so well, they have an amazing culture, and they will believe that they can keep their incredible run in this competition going.
“We had two amazing matches against Clermont two years ago, and took six points off them in the pool, so we know exactly what to expect from them. They have a star studded squad and over the last three or four years have been one of the very best teams in the world.
“We’ve played Northampton a few times in recent season for what have been some tough games and I wouldn’t expect this to be any different. They were disappointed with how this season went and will want to bounce back to where they feel they belong this season.”
Admission to all three Champions Cup matches at the Liberty Stadium is included in an Ospreys season membership, along with 11 Guinness PRO12 games, two in the Anglo Welsh Cup, and pre-season fixtures against Leicester Tigers (in Bridgend) and Bath, all from just £150. For more information, or to sign up now, visit www.ospreysrugby.com/2017membership