Having sat out the tail end of last season through injury, Rhys Webb has declared himself fit and ready for the new campaign.
The influential scrum-half underwent surgery in late March to repair cartilage damage suffered during a heart-breaking defeat in Glasgow, and after taking a full-part in pre-season training over the last seven weeks, he says he can’t wait to get stuck into action again when the Ospreys face Worcester in a fortnight’s time.
“I’m feeling fresh” said Webb.
“There’s an exciting feel around the place and I’m ready to go again. I had a good summer break, five weeks off, and came back refreshed. I’ve been able to get some good work under my belt and I can’t wait for the games to start in a couple of weeks, that’s when things really step up.
“There are plenty of new faces about the place and that brings something different to the environment, keeps people on their toes. It’s a positive feeling here, definitely. I was really disappointed to miss the end of the season, it’s tough to watch from the sides. Like any player I would have preferred to have been involved when it was getting to the business end of the year but that wasn’t too be.
“The flip side is that’s it’s been good to have a break and come back in for the start of pre-season and really work hard. We’ll see the benefits hopefully in the new season. I’m excited about what we could do as a team this season and I just want to get the boots and shirt on again. It’s going to be a tough contest for the jersey, there are some good nines here. I want to play as many games as I can but I know that I’m going to have to fight really hard for it.
“You can’t think too much about who has come in over the summer, or what the other players in your position are all about. As long as I do my role properly, keep my head and down and do the things I’m supposed to, I’ve just got to get on with it and hope that the coaches like what they see. If they don’t, I’ve got to do that even harder.”
It promises to be a season of intrigue, with the Ospreys drawn in a challenging pool in Europe and the new qualification process from the GUINNESS PRO12 leaving little margin for error. The sense of excitement among the squad ahead of the new campaign is evident, a feeling shared by Webb, who says that the challenge for the Ospreys will be to hit top form week in, week out:
“It does look exciting, definitely. It’s got people talking. We’ve got a tough draw in Europe but we are all looking forward to the challenges. Going up against Northampton, playing Racing, they are real challenges but that’s what we’ve got to rise to and thrive on. In the PRO12, we know that the expectation here is to do better than we did last year in terms of where we finished, and the top four is our target. There’ll be more of an edge week in week out than there has been maybe, but we’ve got to back ourselves to get the consistency in what we do.
“We’ve got a young group but there is still plenty of experience and we can’t make or look for excuses. Everybody at the Ospreys expects the highest standards and we have to live up to that in everything we do.”
Still only 25, it’s now more than six years since he made his senior regional debut, and he completed his Ospreys century earlier this year. Capped 7 time by Wales as well, Webb goes into the new season finding himself qualifying as one of the senior pros in a youthful squad. It’s an unfamiliar position maybe, but he is relishing the responsibility that comes with such billing.
“I’ve come through the ranks here as a youngster and I’m fortunate enough to have played more than 100 times. I suppose that does make me an older head even though that’s a strange feeling for me” acknowledged Webb.
“It’s good to see so many youngsters coming through at the same time, which shows how hard the region works on development. It’s an exciting time for the Ospreys, we’ve got new faces and the younger boys are starting to build their experience. It does look good for the future, starting this season.
“Looking around in training this summer these boys have brought a real energy with them and that gives everyone a boost. It’s important they show everybody what they can do and, like I said, if we can get that consistency from the very first game of the season then I’m optimistic about what we can achieve. If I can play a part in that I’ll be happy.”
After pre-season tests against Worcester and Saracens, sandwiching a regional challenge against the four senior clubs at the Gnoll, Treviso are the opponents at the Liberty Stadium for round one of the PRO12, and Webb can’t wait to get started:
“It’s always nice to have the first game of the season at home and hopefully start on a high in front of our own fans. Treviso are always a tough nut to crack and they will want to get off to the best start as well so it’ll be a good battle.
“It’s important that we are ready as we’ll have a big crowd for the opening weekend and we want to give them something to get excited about.”