Firstly, welcome back Ospreys!
We are well into block one of the BKT URC 22/23 season and it’s great to be back. As CEO, I have never been shy about where I want to take Ospreys and the vision I have for the team. Last season, we saw this start to materialize, and despite the issues faced, we finished strong.
- Winning the Welsh Shield and only a few bonus points away from the Top 8
- Jac Morgan (Turnover King) and Gareth Anscombe (Gilbert Golden Boot) both won top URC accolades
- Highest contribution to the Wales senior and U20 teams of all Regions
- Our social media channels were the 2nd fastest growing in the league
- We were the most watched team in Wales and 6th overall
- Ospreys v Munster was the 2nd most watched game in the URC
It has been an interesting start to the season as we have already experienced highs and lows, with a tough draw to Scarlets and a narrow loss to the Emirates Lions. Our convincing win against Glasgow Warriors proved what we are capable of.
Last week’s loss to Ulster was an unfortunate by-product of Welsh Rugby commitments but I was incredibly proud of the resilience shown by the younger players. Unfortunately the loss of our international players has a significant impact on our performance, but we will continue to invest in player development to mitigate this.
Off field, our revamped hospitality offers have received rave reviews as we launched a new, modern menu in the Executive Lounge, the inclusion of live entertainment in the Nest, and of course, exclusive player Q&As. Our Nest hospitality attendance has increased by over 60% compared to this time last season, and with new hospitality offers on the horizon, we have something to suit all supporters.
We have seen amazing support from the community thus far as they have come out in numbers to support us and take part in our ever-popular half-time tag. Our match against the DHL Stormers will host over 970 people from our community groups, clubs and schools. I’m proud of the work Ospreys in the Community is delivering as leaders in their field across the UK.
This season we will see the return of the biggest game of the year, the West Wales Derby on Boxing Day. After 10 years, Ospreys will finally host this illustrious event once again. We are gearing up to make this the biggest one yet and ensure it’s a match experience like no other. Make sure you mark it down in your calendar and get your tickets now.
Toby has said it time and again, and it couldn’t be more true, supporters in the stands really do make all the difference. Late kick off times have led to smaller crowds than we would like. While there are complexities on the league’s side with broadcast partner requirements, there is an understanding among us all of the need to balance what is good for our supporters and TV partners. We are in constant dialogue with the league and broadcasters on how we can work together to find the best median.
We are constantly testing and looking for new ways to raise the in-stadium experience to ensure all our supporters have an unforgettable time and return to our next home game.
Our supporters’ attendance is crucial to the players performance – your backing makes all the difference, and they need your support when taking to the field. The roar of the crowd, the waving of flags, the chants and the cheers, that’s what pushes the players harder and drives them on. We need as many supporters as possible, so make sure you come on down and support the boys.
We will soon be launching our 22/23 alternate kit, and it’s bound to turn a few heads. Without giving too much away, when we don the kit in Heineken Champions Cup matches, we will be taking a piece of our community with us as we pay homage to all our 77 grassroots clubs. Keep an eye on our social media channels for this exciting jersey.
As everyone is aware, there is some speculation on the discussions happening around the Welsh Pro Game that is understandably causing concern among some of our supporters. The reality is, until a decision is made and communicated, this information is just speculation.
I am looking forward to the remainder of the season as we visit new stadiums, play new teams and break new ground. Despite the issues we face, I remain positive about the future of the Ospreys.
Blair: “Collectively, we were just off it.”
The Italian side held on for a 24-17 win with Rhyno Smith’s late score the difference in a back-and-forth battle at Stadio Monigo.
“Yeah, it’s definitely disappointing,” said Blair. “We knew this was going to be a really tough game with the team that they picked.
“Benetton were excellent and managed the game really well after the red card. They were really smart. But I said to the players at half-time that the game was still in our hands.”
Benetton went down to 14 men in the 10th minute when debutant Matteo Minozzi was sent off for dangerous play after his boot – in the process of gathering a high ball – made contact with Wes Goosen’s face, leaving the winger with a nasty cut.
Edinburgh failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage however, with Benetton proving too shrewd in defence despite being a man down.
“We’ve seen it before, though, with red cards and how it can really galvanise a team. It brings emotion into it and gives them that backs-to-the-wall type of mentality,” continued Blair.
“But we’ve got to be better than that. We’ve got to see that as an opportunity. I think we waited and thought that (red card) was going to be the thing that won us game.
“But that wasn’t the case. It’s your physicality, your relentlessness nature of attack, persistence in defence, your smarts – that’s what wins you games. Collectively, we were just off it.
“I don’t think you can put it down to one thing. We always speak about what we want the perception of us to be from others.
“That perception is around the ruthless and clinical nature of our attack, as well as physicality in defence. We didn’t get that today.”
Edinburgh finish this block of fixtures without its Scotland internationalists having won two out of three road matches, with Saturday’s defeat to Benetton ending a three-match winning streak.
The capital side now turn their attention to Munster this coming Friday night (2 December, kick-off 7.35pm) in a match-up that sees Edinburgh return home to DAM Health Stadium for the first time in over a month.
“This period is an opportunity for the club. This group of players won away against Zebre and Cardiff, so there’s been some real positives.
“This was a tough game to come back to after the break for a few weeks. We were just off it in a couple of areas and that’s something we need to fix moving forward to next week.”
Timani returns to fitness as Cardiff name side to face Sharks
Lopeti Timani returns to the Cardiff line-up for the opening clash of their BKT United Rugby Championship double-header in South Africa.
With the Blue and Blacks kicking off their tour in Durban against Cell C Sharks on Sunday (KO 4.10pm), Tongan international Timani, who missed the home clash against Edinburgh last month, takes his place in the second row alongside Rory Thornton.
Captain Josh Turnbull will wear the number six jersey, with Thomas Young and James Botham completing the back row, while Rhys Carré, Liam Belcher and Dmitri Arhip form the front row.
Behind the pack Jarrod Evans and Lloyd Williams continue their partnership at half back. Rey Lee-Lo returns to the midfield for the first time since the away win over Scarlets, linking up with Max Llewellyn in the centre.
Finally, having made his URC debut in South Africa last season, Theo Cabango is again given the nod on the wing. Jason Harries occupies the opposite touchline, while Ben Thomas slots in at 15.
Cardiff director or rugby, Dai Young said: “We’re looking forward to testing ourselves against a quality team in the Sharks on Sunday.
“We were disappointed with our last game out here last season so we have plenty of motivation to put things right and we’ve shown we are heading in the right direction and we want to build upon that.
“It is important now that we keep that momentum and confidence and show we have learnt and developed from last season.
“We know what to expect from the Sharks and they are formidable at home but we are in a good place. We will need to perform at our best and if we do that then there is no reason why we cannot make a statement.”
Cardiff have named a six-two split on the bench, with youngsters Ellis Bevan and Mason Grady providing cover for the back-line.
Seb Davies is passed fit to feature, having been on the sidelines since mid-October, while there are further fire-power from the likes of Kristian Dacey, Corey Domachowski and James Ratti.
Cardiff will also take on Vodacom Bulls during their time in the Rainbow Nation, before turning their attention to Europe and the festive derbies.
Cardiff: Ben Thomas; Jason Harries, Rey Lee-Lo, Max Llewellyn, Theo Cabango; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams; Rhys Carré, Liam Belcher, Dmitri Arhip, Lopeti Timani, Rory Thornton, Josh Turnbull (capt.), Thomas Young, James Botham
Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Corey Domachowski, Will Davies-King, Seb Davies, Gwilym Bradley, James Ratti, Ellis Bevan, Mason Grady
Unavailable for selection: Dillon Lewis, Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau, Tomos Williams, Rhys Priestland, Owen Lane, Willis Halaholo, Josh Adams, Liam Williams, Matthew Morgan, Jacob Beetham.
Internationals return for Munster interpro at Thomond Park
Six Connacht players who were with the Ireland squad in November have come into the starting lineup for tomorrow’s interpro with Munster in Limerick (k/o 7.35pm).
Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Cian Prendergast, Caolin Blade and Bundee Aki are all named in the starting lineup, as the squad aim to make it three straight wins in the BKT URC.
Denis Buckley joins Heffernan and Bealham in the front row while Josh Murphy is selected alongside Thornbury in the second row. Prendergast is named at blindside flanker, with Conor Oliver at openside and Jarrad Butler at number 8.
Captain Jack Carty continues at out-half while Tom Farrell partners Aki in the centre. The side is completed by wingers Alex Wootton and Byron Ralston, and full-back John Porch.
On the bench there’s a notable return for Shane Delahunt, who has recovered from an 8-month injury layoff for a potential first appearance of the season. The management team have opted for a 6:2 split, meaning Niall Murray, Oisin Dowling and Paul Boyle could all be called upon.
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
“Everyone had ten days off after the Ospreys game which I think was needed for coaches and players. Now that we have everyone back it’s all eyes on Munster for the start of an important ten week block for us, and we’re well positioned for these games going forward.
Munster away at Thomond Park is never an easy task but I thought we were close last year and the previous year we won there. You can’t just rock up to Thomond and think you’re going to win, you’ve got to work your backside off and bring an element of physicality along with accuracy in what you are doing”
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS MUNSTER RUGBY
Saturday 26th November, 19:35 @ Thomond Park
15. John Porch (66)
14. Byron Ralston (6)
13. Tom Farrell (83)
12. Bundee Aki (119)
11. Alex Wootton (37)
10. Jack Carty (184) (C)
9. Caolin Blade (154)
1. Denis Buckley (215)
2. Dave Heffernan (171)
3. Finlay Bealham (173)
4. Josh Murphy (5)
5. Gavin Thornbury (68)
6. Cian Prendergast (33)
7. Conor Oliver (47)
8. Jarrad Butler (100)
16. Shane Delahunt (117)
17. Peter Dooley (5)
18. Jack Aungier (38)
19. Niall Murray (40)
20. Oisín Dowling (31)
21. Kieran Marmion (215)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (57)
23. Paul Boyle (79)
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