“We’re in a five-way arm wrestle”

Backs-coach, Matt Sherratt has spoken about the race for the Guinness PRO14 play-offs ahead of Friday’s Conference A, second v third, clash with Glasgow at Scotstoun.

Matt Sherratt spoke to the press on Tuesday at Llandarcy Academy of Sport, as the Ospreys return to PRO14 action, against, Glasgow, at Scotstoun on Friday (K.O. 7.35pm) and we’ve rounded up the main talking points. 

Here’s what he had to say about…


Europe/Guinness PRO14:

  • We were clear right from the start that our priority was the Guinness PRO14, especially after last year with the disappointment of missing out on the Champions Cup.
  • From day one, since I’ve joined here, it has been about regaining our credibility in the PRO14 and trying to get Champions Cup rugby and using the Challenge Cup for two things. At home we’ve become pretty strong, I think the Worcester game was certainly a missed opportunity; we could have gone to Pau then with a realistic chance of getting into the quarter-finals. Through our away games, then, I think we’ve blooded some youngsters.
  • I’ll go back to my experience at the Blues last year, who went on to win it. It was exactly the same there: home we were pretty strong and away, as you’ll see now they are probably reaping the rewards from it, with people like Kieron Assirati, Dylan Lewis, Seb Davies, Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams, Owen Lane, Garyn Smith – they were the boys who got blooded away against Lyon and Toulouse last year. The Blues were fortunate to get some wins away from home and managed to get into the quarter-finals, but it becomes a priority when you get into the quarter finals or the last rounds.
  • We are disappointed, especially after the Worcester performance, but hopefully we will reap the rewards from the likes of Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, Harri Morgan, Will Griffiths and Cai Evans, down the line. It’s about getting that balance, because I think obviously with the A-league, they’ve got some meaningful rugby, but it’s not around the senior players. 

Welsh failure in Europe 

  • Last year, the Scarlets were in the semi-final of the Heineken Cup and the Blues won the Challenge Cup and people were writing a different story, as it was the English clubs who weren’t getting there. I think what everyone is after is some consistency, to have some regular knock-out rugby for our regional teams as the Irish teams are probably doing year-in-year-out.
  • If you look at the Scottish teams, this year both into the quarter-finals, but in previous years, Edinburgh have been no where near. Hopefully it’ll be a one off. It’s beyond my knowledge as obviously there’s things going on in the background of the Welsh game at the moment. As far as we are concerned as coaches, its just trying to do the best we can to make us as competitive as we can, whilst trying to stick to our objectives of blooding youngsters and just getting that balance.
  • It would be great if regularly three out of four of the Welsh regions were getting to the Champions Cup. Once you are in the Champions Cup, you are arguably in the lap of the gods, depending on what draw you get, there’s so many variables and sometimes you can’t control how strong other teams are. From my experience of three years in the PRO14, it’s getting so much more competitive. The Italian teams are more competitive, you’ve got South African teams in it, Glasgow and Edinburgh who are now very, very competitive and Connacht this year with a change of coach have had a spike. It’s certainly not getting any easier, and within Welsh rugby as a whole, there is a challenge to ensure we keep up, but not just keep up, to push ahead if we can.


Conference A

  •  It looked like at one stage that Glasgow and Munster may push away from the pack and there was going to be a three-way fight between us, the Blues and Connacht. But probably over the last couple of weeks, it has condensed a little bit so there is a little bit more of a five-way arm wrestle now.
  • Before that, I think Glasgow had won ten games on the trot, they then played Edinburgh and Treviso and they’ve had some mixed results. Obviously, it’s that time of year where we’ll be without a number of players because of the Six Nations, and no one gets hit as hard as Glasgow.
  • If we had progressed in the Challenge Cup, it would have been an added bonus. The objectives won’t change from June to May, we want to restore our credibility in the PRO14. As you can see from how competitive our pool is, it will probably go down to the last weekend.


Kicking Game:

  • Against the Scarlets and the Blues we did have a game plan that was focused around trying to keep the ball in the air. For the Blues it was because they are so good at jackalling when the ball is on the floor, and it worked. My primary job here is to win games of rugby and if we can do that by playing brilliant rugby, then that’s obviously what we want. The Scarlets game was fairly similar.
  • The Worcester game, with how the game progressed, and looking through the game, there was probably five or six kicks that you could take out. We were two points up, there was four minutes left, it was a little bit greasy. Did we over kick? A little bit. But I could also show you some games where we over passed. It’s something we are working on as a coaching group, but if I’m honest, it’s something that I thought we needed to improve here was our kicking game because this time last year, people were frustrated because we were a little bit lateral in our attack. I would have been foolish not to incorporate a little bit of a kicking game as well. Do we sometimes go too far with that? Yes we do.
  • Hopefully over time with good recruitment and good coaching, we can play a style of rugby that supporters enjoy watching. At the start of the season, we played some good rugby. There’s been a couple of derbies and one game against Worcester where there was a little bit of frustration, but we are working hard to find that balance.


Next period of matches:

  • Obviously there’s a game this weekend, and then there’s nothing for the next two weeks. It’s a chance to give players a rest as well, its been, especially with the derbies and Europe, a really tough period during the season. We’ll play Glasgow this weekend, then the boys will have a week off, before coming in for two weeks for the next game ahead.
  • It’s a little bit stop-start. Its probably tougher for the supporters during this time because you almost get lost between the Six Nations and PRO14 and obviously when they do come, the internationals aren’t on the field. It’s also challenging as a squad and coaching staff because every point is vital, so going away to Glasgow on Friday, we want to go up there and be as competitive as possible and try and come back with something. Then obviously we’ve got Ulster, Connacht and Munster, so its just making sure we pick up as many points as we can. When the Six Nations have finished and the internationals come back to integrate, we can really attack the back-end of the season.


Keelan Giles:

  • He pulled out of the warm up last week, he was feeling his hamstring so it’s nothing major. He’s round about for selection. He may not make this week, but it’s certainly not long term.


Project Reset:

  • If I’m honest, it’s a bit like a James Bond film. I don’t really take notice of project reset, I’m busy coaching, that’s for people who have got a lot more responsibility outside of the game than I have to worry about. I turn up and coach and try and make us competitive every weekend and then hopefully when some clarity comes back about what’s happening, then we can deal with it. Up until then, I won’t really stress about it.