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Guinness Pro 14 Preview: Ospreys

Ospreys will look to maintain a more consistent level of play during the upcoming season following a poor showing last year. Last season was a tale of two halves for the club. The first half, the Ospreys were a very solid force winning 13 of their first 18 matches. Then the collapse began. They then went on to lose six of their final seven matches including a quarterfinal loss in the Challenge Cup and semifinal loss in Pro 12 playoffs. There was also a very embarrassing moment for the team as they lost to Benetton Treviso to start off their losing trend.

Injuries wrecked havoc on the team this past season. The cornerstone players of their team missed large portions of the second half of the season with injury. Keeping the team healthy will be a very important to finish with a successful season this year.

Squad

Injuries

This season it looks that the injury plague has already hit the team again with Ashley Beck and Sam Davies currently out with injury. Davies suffered a groin injury during the summer tour with Wales and will likely be back shortly after the beginning of the season. Ashley Beck’s injury, however, is a bit more severe. During preseason training, Beck suffered a shoulder injury that would end up requiring surgery. This surgery has left him out of action throughout the rest of 2017. This injury is especially devastating with the loss of Josh Matavesi during the off-season to the Newcastle Falcons. This leaves the team with almost no experience at 12 for the first half of the season. Fortunately, some new signees may help offset some of the issues.

New Signees

James Hook- Gloucester

James Hook has a long storied history with Ospreys. Hook spent five years with the Ospreys before traveling Europe to continue his career. After spending most of last season as full back for Gloucester, it was expected that he would fill a similar role for Ospreys this season. Sam Davies’ injury, as well as Dan Biggar’s extended rest following the British and Irish Lions tour, have pushed James Hook back into his fly half role. Currently, it is unknown if he will resume the full back role once Davies and Biggar are back or will continue to play fly half through the season.

Cory Allen- Cardiff Blues

Cory Allen spent five years with Cardiff before making the move to Ospreys. Last season, Allen started 10 matches for the Blues. Allen has also earned seven caps with Wales, as well as playing for the Welsh 7s team. Cory Allen is likely to step into the 12 position for Ospreys early this season due to Ashley Beck’s injury.

Brian Mujati- Sale Sharks.

Mujati actually started playing for Ospreys toward the end of last season. This will be his first full season with the team and expect him to continue his impact on the team. At the end of last season, Mujati started in seven matches, and had good showings. This next season, expect Mujati to split time with Rhodri Jones in the number three jersey.

Expected starting XV

  1. Nicky Smith- 68 caps.
  2. Scott Baldwin- 124 caps.
  3. Brian Mujati/Rhodri Jones- 7 caps/20 caps.
  4. Bradley Davies- 10 caps.  Davies started seven matches last season including the Pro 12 semifinals. Prior to playing for Ospreys, he played for the Wasps, where he started 14 matches during the 2015/16 season.
  5. Alun-Wyn Jones- 171 caps. Injuries plagued Jones through last year’s campaign. Hopefully, this year will allow him to have a healthy season and see the year all the way through. If he does get injured though, expect Rory Thornton to fill the role well.
  6. Olly Cracknell- 41 caps
  7. Justin Tiupric- 136 caps. Expect other personnel to fill his spot throughout the first few weeks until he returns from his extended break following the Lions tour this summer.
  8. James King- 148 caps.
  9. Rhys Webb- 146 caps. Another Lions player who will not be available for the first few weeks of the season.
  10. Dan Biggar/Sam Davies/James Hook- 253/85/82 caps. Injuries and a summer Lions tour have made the fly half position very lean leaving James Hook as the only early season option.
  11. Hanno Dirksen/Dafydd Howells- 96 caps/19 caps. Hanno Dirksen will be back in time for the beginning of the season.  Expect for Dafydd Howells to get a lot of starting time this season.
  12. Cory Allen- 0 caps. With the injury to Ashley Beck, Cory Allen is likely to take over the 12 role early in the season.
  13. Kieron Fonotia- 20 caps.
  14. Keelan Giles/Jeff Hasler- 19 caps/53 caps. Canadian international Jeff Hasler has finally returned from injury to be available for the beginning of this season.
  15. Dan Evans/James Hook-65 caps/82 caps. With the uncertainty for James Hook on his role with the team, it is possible he could return to the full back position when the team is healthy again.

Coaching

Steve Tandy will be looking to overcome what will certainly be a difficult beginning to the season with the numerous injuries in the off-season. In his 6th season with the team, Tandy seems to have his team laid out how he would like, unfortunately, it requires them to be healthy.

Schedule

With all the problems of injuries and extended time off, week one for the Ospreys should be very manageable. Zebre at home makes for a nice simple start to the season. Weeks two and three are more difficult with a trip to Glasgow and Munster at home. Hopefully, by the end of these three matches, some players will be able to return. The rest of the season features an away match against Munster, two matches against Scarlets, Cardiff, and a home match against Glasgow. Their season should be manageable with a full complement of personnel.

Outlook

Ospreys’ season will be solely dependent on staying healthy and returning injured players to form. If they can manage that, they will be able to have a successful season. In this scenario, they will battle out with Glasgow for a playoff position. If they cannot maintain the health of their top performers, do not expect their campaign to ever get fully off the ground. They are still likely to finish in the top half of their conference, but not likely to make the playoffs.

 

 

Pro 14 Previews:

Connacht

Cardiff Blues

Zebre

Ulster

Edinburgh

Dragons

Cheetahs

Benetton Treviso

Leinster

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David Bradham

Active duty Navy, have a true passion for Rugby.
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