Belfast Telegraph

Ospreys keener than most to have future in Europe sorted

By Michael Sadlier

While demolishing Edinburgh and seeing off Connacht in thumping try-bonus wins may not exactly be cause to set off any fireworks, the Ospreys have nevertheless set out their stall with gusto.

But, as it pretty much seems to always be when it comes to the Welsh regions, dark clouds are on the horizon with much talk about the potential European split and collapse of the Heineken Cup, as it currently exists, having an even more dire impact on the Principality, with the continuing uncertainty potentially enticing even more big name players away.

Ospreys' Wales and Lions lock Ian Evans is out of contract at the end of this season and though the Swansea club will doubtless be keen to keep him, any talks about his future are in limbo regarding the financial impact a potential Heineken Cup collapse would have on the Liberty Stadium side.

Evans is not alone in being a target for English and French clubs, but he was put on the spot this week about his future, which is hardly ideal preparation ahead of tonight's clash with Ulster.

"The powers-that-be clearly need to sort it out. I hope it is sorted out sooner rather than later," he added, which also probably indicates that the player also needs to decide his future."

Anyway, four games in and the Ospreys are still unbeaten with the only slight blemish being a high-scoring draw with Leinster at the RDS to yet again add momentum to the theory that they have the Indian sign on the Dublin side – no bad thing really as they face them first up next weekend in the opening round of the Heineken Cup – while the Welsh side are also to be found at the top of the try scoring charts with 16 touchdowns so far.

Impressive, but 12 of those tries have come from those last two outings with six a piece arriving against Alan Solomons' already wayward charges and Pat Lam's struggling squad west of the Shannon so, again, this current total may be somewhat illusory in telling us just how strong the Ospreys are this season. They currently sit with leaders Glasgow on 16 points

Yes, it's still very early days to be trumpeting their chances of a top four PRO12 finish or indeed a decent run in Europe – though, in fairness, having Leinster, Northampton Saints and Castres as opponents in Pool One looks like a very tall order – but at least when it comes to current form there is a still a feel-good factor around Liberty Stadium.

This was boosted last weekend in Galway when Dan Biggar passed the 1,000 points barrier during the game. Not only that but having Lions' Evans, Alun- Wyn Jones, Richard Hibbard, Justin Tipuric and Adam Jones all back playing gives the Ospreys the best chance possible of making early inroads in the league while also giving them a shot at an opening win when they host Leinster on Saturday of next week.

Indeed, with new signing Tito Tebaldi giving coach Steve Tandy much-needed oomph around the fringes with the scrum half's powerful presence, it is little wonder that the Ospreys have been sounding positive about on-field matters regarding Ulster's visit tonight.

As for Evans, it is his 29th birthday today and he hopes to have plenty to sing about after the match.

"How will I celebrate my birthday? Hopefully, by playing well against Ulster and helping the team get the right result. I may have one or two drinks afterwards, but no more," said the second row.

"The sacrifices are worthwhile. The only way you are going to achieve anything in a professional sport is by making sacrifices. That's what makes it better when you do achieve things."

A European solution would be a start.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph