Ospreys willing to swap glamour for guile

THE Ospreys are considered the glamour boys of Welsh rugby but assistant coach Jonathan Humphreys admits he will take an ‘ugly’ win against Munster in the Heineken Cup on Sunday.

Although star centre Gavin Henson will miss the Thomond Park trip with an ankle injury and Wales full-back Lee Byrne is only rated as 50-50, the other self-styled superstars James Hook, Shane Williams and Mike Phillips will all definitely line-up. But Ospreys management believe there is a newly-found hard edge to accompany the star-studded back-line and take on Paul O’Connell and co up front.

Humphreys said: “Munster are extremely street-wise and their front five have been together for a long time.

“They are a very experienced side and know how to win the big matches. They know what pressure is all about.

“This whole tournament is all about experiences. After losing to Saracens at the same stage last season, we have prepared in a different way for this game. We’re more experienced now and we will be better for that.

“It’s a huge challenge for us physically and mentally. They will put a lot of pressure on referee Wayne Barnes but I’m sure he can handle it. We will take an ugly win.”

The Ospreys are rank outsiders for the last eight showdown against the two-time kings of Europe after displaying indifferent form during the high-profile matches in the current season. Despite qualification, a patchy campaign in the group stages materialised with away defeats to Leicester Tigers and Perpignan.

The Ospreys’ stagefright on the ‘big stage’ then continued in a shock EDF Energy Cup semi-final 17-0 defeat to Gloucester two weeks ago.

However, the Ospreys rallied to gain a slender Magners League victory against Ulster in Belfast last weekend to restore some much-needed confidence and belief into a waning season.

Ospreys coach Sean Holley said: “There’s no point in us being in this competition if we don’t believe we can win it. We will have to bring our A-game to the table but we are capable of beating anyone on our day.

“Munster deserve the tag of favourites because they are the Heineken Cup holders. But it’s important that we play as a team because we all know about our ability.”

The Ospreys have named a 24-man squad including Byrne who sustained a foot injury in Wales’ Six Nations defeat to Grand Slam champions Ireland last month.

But the Ospreys ace has undergone treatment in an oxygen tent this week in a bid to be fit.

Sean Holley said: “Lee has started training and we will give him every chance. There are encouraging signs and he has made really good progress but he is still touch and go, and 50-50 for the game. But with medical science anything can happen. Richard Hibbard was supposed to be out for months but came back within half the expected time.”

The Ospreys will make a decision on Byrne’s fitness tomorrow before flying to Ireland on Saturday morning. If Byrne, 28, fails to recover then Ireland Grand Slam winner Tommy Bowe or Jonny Vaughton could fill the full-back berth.

But Holley insists the star-studded Welsh region have adequate cover.

He said: “We have plenty of options Tommy, Jonny and Jonathan Spratt have all played at full-back. Even James Hook has played at full-back at international level with Wales and that shows the strength in depth we have.”

OSPREYS SQUAD: Backs: L Byrne, J Vaughton, T Bowe, S Williams, S Parker, A Bishop, J Spratt, J Hook, D Biggar, J Nutbrown, M Phillips.

Forwards: Adam Jones, P James, C Griffiths, R Hibbard, H Bennett, I Gough, F Levi, Alun-Wyn Jones, A Lloyd, T Smith, R Jones, F Tiatia, M Holah.


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