Ospreys skipper Lloyd Ashley says the team face “a pretty tough” week ahead of the Guinness PRO12 opener against Ulster next Friday night.
The second row led his charges to a convincing win over Saracens at the HAC in London on Thursday evening, in their only pre-season fixture, and although he was pleased with how things went on the field, Ashley warned that there is plenty of work to be done before the new campaign kicks-off in Belfast.
“It was a good hit out for us” said Ashley.
“It’s nice to get some rugby under our belt and, for me personally, to get through 80 minutes.
“There were positives about the performance but we can’t get blinded by the scoreboard, not everything was perfect. We aren’t going to blow it out of proportion. It’s just a pre-season win, albeit one against a good team.
“We’ve got plenty of work-ons moving forward but we’ll take the positives out of it, sit down over the weekend and identify how we can put right the negatives before we kick off the PRO12.
“It’s important that we recognise this isn’t a league game, it’s not Ulster away next Friday, where the atmosphere and the intensity will be up quite a few notches on this.
“We’ve got three or four days in training now where we’ll be honest and pretty tough with each other, as you have to be when it’s Ulster at the Kingspan next. That’s as tough as it gets.”
Reflecting on the 33-16 win, with the Ospreys running in five tries to Saracens’ one, Ashley said it had been good just to get back into action after a long summer.
“We wanted to bed some units in together, wanted to get through some new plays and systems, in attack and defence, and I think we can be relatively happy that we got the chance to do all that” was his considered verdict.
”It’s good to actually get out there with a ball in your hands, doing what we love, as opposed to the shuttle runs and everything that comes with pre-season.
“On the flip side there were some things we came into the game wanting to achieve which we didn’t do so we have to look at why, get back on to the training paddock and put that right. We’ll work hard, like we have all summer.”
As the focus turns from Saracens to Ulster, Ashley said that he was pleased that Thursday’s win was down to a good squad showing, with replacements making a big impact in the second half.
Looking at the next week, building up to PRO12 round one, he is expecting the coaches to have some difficult decisions to make.
“It’s always going to be a tough week, but what makes it tougher is the performance of boys coming off the bench, who really made a statement. That’s exactly the position we want to be in, where not only is it a tough week in training, working on putting things right, but it is also a tough week for the coaches, making their selection.
“That’s a headache all teams should want to have. It’s what we want at the Ospreys.”