After a week-long training camp in central France, rounded off with a tough opening fixture against Clermont Auvergne, the Ospreys have returned to their HQ at Llandarcy to continue preparations for the coming season and second row Ian Gough believes that what he describes as a "tough week" will benefit the squad in the coming weeks and months.
Based in Issoire, the training camp saw the players being put through three sessions a day before a difficult 80 minutes against the French giants, and Gough acknowledged that the experience was a vital building block.
“It was a tough week for everyone in all honesty” he said.
“We’re at different stages of our pre-season at the moment with the test players coming back later after their trip to Australia so there was an onus on a lot of the young lads to front up against a full Clermont team.
“They were pretty formidable with the names they had right throughout their squad, starters and coming on, so it was a big test for the younger members in particular. They stuck at the task regardless of what the scoreline suggests and there was a lot of good things that came from it. It’s always good to play against the best sides and they definitely were a really good side.
“Did the result matter? No, not at all. It’s all about the conditioning, where you are fitness wise, and about trying things out on the pitch. Basically, you’re just getting a feeling for rugby back into you again. What’s most important is how you transfer what you are doing in training into a match environment, what’s working and what’s not. It was definitely a really worthwhile exercise, without a doubt.
“Training in some really hot weather will benefit us for the first weekend of the PRO12 out in Treviso as well. Last year we went out there and played in that sort of temperature and it almost caught us out but we’re a bit wiser for the experience now and being out in France working hard last week will help us prepare for that in a few weeks time.”
Next up for the Ospreys are Aviva Premiership outfit Bath who visit the Liberty Stadium on Saturday afternoon (KO 3.00pm) and Gough is predicting another difficult 80 minutes.
“Bath are a quality side and are going to offer us different challenges” he said.
“It’s our first home game which means a lot to the guys, to play in front of our own crowd. This type of game is exactly what we need to prepare us for the rigours of the Rabo, and I’d expect that a few more of the Wales guys will come into the equation. It’s the next step in our preparation.
“It’ll be a good afternoon, a good contest. We’re on our home ground in front of what should be a decent crowd for our first game at the Liberty since winning the league. There’s competition in the squad, everyone is vying for places to be a part of the team that starts our defence in a couple of weeks and that’s always a good thing.”
There’ll be a familiar face in the Bath ranks in the form of Paul James, who clocked up 180 appearances for the Ospreys before making the short trip up the M4 this summer and Gough says it’ll be odd to see him in a Bath shirt:
“He’ll have to be shepherded into the away changing room as I don’t suppose he’s ever seen the inside of it!
“It’ll be strange, not only for him but for us as well. He’s a good friend of everybody and we all know how tough an opponent he’s going to be. The thing is, there’ll be boys up against him he’s worked with for a number of years, and boys that he’ll be hoping he hasn’t taught too many of his old tricks!”
Tickets for the game are on sale now at the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office, online at www.ospreysrugby.com/buytickets and via the Ticket Hotline on 0844 815 6665. Alternatively the game is covered by a season membership, which are still available to buy with prices starting at just £185 with the buy one, get one free offer still available so why not take advantage of it now before the new season gets underway?