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Warning signs are growing for stung Ospreys in LV Cup

By Michael Sadlier

The last two weeks have, well, focused minds. While the Ospreys have gone about their business in the PRO12 with attention-grabbing efficiency, and as the only side to have won all seven games they find themselves sitting top of the tree, the same certainly could not be said of their LV Cup campaign which has seen them ship two defeats with last weekend's 51-35 trouncing at the hands of the Dragons.

Not that anyone reads too much into the cup games where the Ospreys - as with essentially all the sides - have put out shadow teams when so many of their frontline players are away from the scene on international duty.

And yet after shipping an opening reverse to Saracens, the nature of the way things went south against the Dragons left the Swansea-based region feeling the need to express their displeasure.

It was backs coach Gruff Rees who didn't hold back after the shock result last weekend and though the LV Cup is largely about looking at emerging players while the PRO12 is taking downtime, shipping 51 points in any scenario stung the Ospreys deeply.

"It was cringeworthy at times," said Rees, "and it was one of my worst moments as an Osprey," he added of the heaviest number of points the side has apparently ever conceded.

It certainly hurt but perhaps of more relevance than their damaged pride were the accompanying concerns raised about the Ospreys' lack of depth and that with players away on international call - of which there are 10 - or those on the injured list - 12 players are on that one - their unbeaten run in the PRO12 could be in real danger at the Kingspan Stadium tonight.

The Welsh region fully appreciate the warning signs and at least two key forwards were released from the Wales camp to boost their ranks as number eight Dan Baker and back-row forward James King were both given back to head coach Steven Tandy, who has made nine changes to the side which was so easily seen off by the Dragons.

It has all been a far cry from their last PRO12 game on Halloween night when their 26-11 win over Connacht at the Liberty Stadium brought up the Ospreys' seventh straight win and equalled their best start to a league season, but Tandy still has at least restored the spine of that side for tonight with Dan Evans and Andrew Bishop in the backline and up front veteran prop Duncan Jones and skipper Lloyd Peers back on board.

Still, the Welsh region are feeling vulnerable.

Belfast Telegraph

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