"This is where we do the groundwork"

Tom Isaacs says that he and his Ospreys team-mates face a tough evening when they face Clermont Auvergne in their opening pre-season fixture on Friday night (KO 8.00pm local time).

The versatile 25-year old is part of a 36-man squad currently holed up in the picturesque town of Issoire, 25 miles from Clermont Ferrand, as the team steps up its preparations for the new campaign, and with last season’s T14 semi-finalists providing the opposition a difficult 80 minutes lies in store.

Speaking in between training sessions on Wednesday Isaacs said that the week away from Llandarcy will prove to a key part of their pre-season, not least with such difficult opposition waiting at the end of it.

“It’s a great environment for us to be in for a week” said the 2009 Sevens Rugby World Cup winner.

“It’s an important trip in terms of preparing for the new season and getting the boys switched on. We know that we are going to have to go away as a group to tough places over the course of the season and this is where we do the groundwork to build from.

“We realise that we’ve got a job to do and it’s not just turning up somewhere for a match and then going home. We have to be a strong unit that is prepared well and ready to do the job. A week in camp like this allows us to get to know each other better as a group and allows us to focus on that first game that will be with us before we know it. It’s a great environment to be in like I said, but we are here to work hard not enjoy the sights.

“We’ll be all the better for this experience. We’re working hard through the week and then we’ve got tough opponents in Clermont Auvergne who we are expecting to come fully loaded. Pre-season has been great so far to be fair. The boys have trained well, younger boys stepping up well and mixing with the older more experienced players and it bodes well.

“Friday night’s game will be a really good test for us to see how we are progressing ahead of the new season and we can’t wait to pull the shirt on again and get out there.”

On a personal level, following a difficult time with injury when he initially moved to the Ospreys in 2009, last season saw Isaacs really establish himself as a versatile back of some talent. A regular in the matchday squad, he made 21 appearances during 2011/12 showing his skills in a number of positions throughout the season.

As he looks towards 2012/13, he acknowledges the need to continue working hard if he hopes to kick on over the coming months.

“I’ve had to be patient but last season I was fortunate enough to really start to be able to make a contribution to the team” said Isaacs.

“I made a good few appearances throughout the season and was involved in the run-in to the final so I want to build on that this year. There’s competition for places and I know I’ve got to get past some very good players if I’m going to nail down a starting place but if I do well in pre-season then hopefully I can start the season in the team.

“That has to be my aim, starting with this week in camp and the game on Friday night. I’ll be looking for a good performance here, taking that into Bath at the Liberty Stadium the following weekend against what is traditionally a good side, always very strong. We’ll be looking to step up another gear in front of our own fans, it’ll be great to be back home after the summer break.”