Skipper Alun Wyn Jones will once again lead the Ospreys out into battle at the weekend when the Ospreys welcome Ulster to the Liberty Stadium for the first home PRO12 game of the new season, and he says that the fantastic response from fans to this year's season membership packages means that the players have to respond accordingly.
Over 9,200 season memberships have already been issued with the Ticket Office reporting a late surge of interest ahead of the big game on Saturday evening (KO 6.30pm) and taking time out of his preparations for the match, Jones said that the squad are delighted by the record number of members registered for the new season.
“We are very happy and really pleased with the way that our fans have shown their support by taking up so many season tickets for the new season” he commented.
“We would never be arrogant enough to think that we deserve such support so it’s really satisfying that the figure is so high ahead of the new season.
“It’s time for us to deliver now. It’s the first competitive home game of the season against Ulster, who were Heineken Cup finalists just a few months ago, so we’re up against a high calibre outfit. It’s a case of going out there on Saturday and playing for the jersey and the supporters who have backed us so well.”
With a record number of members signed up, Jones denies that it brings added pressure to a team he insists already places the highest level of expectation on itself anyway:
“Our own expectations as a team are always very high, regardless of what anybody else thinks. The internal expectation is what drives us as individuals and as a team. Obviously we focus on what we can do as a team, things that we can control.
“We need to improve in all areas from the Treviso game, we know that. We weren’t happy with the result last week even if there were vast improvements in the way we played in the second half. We controlled the game after the break, had all the possession, we just couldn’t cross the whitewash and capitalise on the improvements that we did make. We have to approach the game in the right manner now, and make sure that every aspect of our game is spot on.
“We see the fact that there’ll be big crowds at the Liberty this season as a huge positive. We know how passionate our supporters are and that they’ll be behind us all the way. That’s not added pressure, that’s what we want on a matchday.”
Jones also stressed that the Ospreys won’t have it all their own way at the Liberty this season, and that when the going gets tough is when the true benefit of the record season memberships will be seen.
“The Ospreys fans have played a big part already” he said.
“They’ve invested in season memberships in record numbers and that’s given all the players a big lift ahead of the game. It’s up to us to respond to that accordingly now, by showing our worth out on the field.
“It won’t go all our away out there, on Saturday night and throughout the season. There’ll be indifferent performances and there’ll be times when we are up against it, that’s professional sport, but one thing I can guarantee is that we will be giving our all every time we pull on the jersey and run out on that pitch.
“I genuinely expect the fans to match that desire, and if we can work together this season then we can continue to excel on and off the field.”