With the Ospreys set to go into knockout battle in two major cup competitions in the coming weeks, bosses at the region have spoken about what they are calling their 'biggest month yet'.
Sean Holley's men face three back-to-back fixtures that will shape the final weeks of the season, with an EDF Energy Cup Semi-Final clash against Gloucester at Coventry's Ricoh Arena (Saturday March 28th) and a second successive Heineken Cup Quarter Final, this time away to Munster on Sunday April 12th, sandwiching a crucial Magners League fixture in Ulster.
According to Managing Director Mike Cuddy, it's an exciting time for everybody at the Ospreys. He said:
"There's no doubt that it's going to be a challenging few weeks for everybody involved with the Ospreys but this is where we want to be, competing on all fronts with just a few months left in the season. The next month is quite possibly the biggest month yet for us, with massive knockout games in two cup competitions, and we mustn't forget that we are still in contention in the Magners League so face an important game against Ulster as well.
"We've got our third successive EDF Energy Cup Semi-Final and we are very keen to keep up our 100 per cent record at that stage of the competition to make it a three finals in a row, and we want to defend the title we won last year. We know all about Gloucester and how tough it will be after playing them in the Heineken Cup last season, but we can take inspiration from what was probably our finest performance of the season in the game at the Liberty Stadium. Another day out at Twickenham is the prize, with a potential all Welsh final against the Blues, which would be a memorable day for all Welsh rugby fans.
"We follow that up with a trip to Ulster which will be a 'must-win' if we are to maintain our challenge for our third ever Celtic League title, and then, a week later we face a massive challenge in having to go to Munster in search of a win that will see us through to the last four of the Heineken Cup for the first time ever. It's an exciting time, and one that we're all looking forward to."
The Ospreys will once again be backed by a substantial travelling support for the Gloucester match, where they will be first up in the Ricoh Arena double-header, before Cardiff Blues take on Northampton in the second Semi Final, whilst more than 3,500 Ospreylians will spend the Easter weekend in the emerald isle for the eagerly awaited Munster clash and a first visit to the new look Thomond Park stadium. According to Cuddy, the support of the travelling fans could prove crucial to the team's continued involvement in the two knockout competitions:
"It's fantastic that there will be a large contingent of Ospreys at both matches, as is always the case. Our supporters have been incredible on their travels over the last year or so, making the most of long trips to France and Italy, as well as really making their presence felt at Twickenham last season and at Leicester earlier this season. Given the current economic conditions it's even more impressive, and their commitment certainly doesn't go unnoticed or unappreciated by the players and the coaches.
"As we continue to grow as an organisation year on year, on and off the field, it is inevitable that expectations will also grow. If we are to match those expectations, then we need to stand up and be counted over the next month. Everybody here is desperate to bring further success to the region, and to reward those fans for their backing. They know that they can play their part at the two matches; we have to work together to achieve our aims, players, supporters, coaches and management alike. The rewards on offer over the next few weeks are huge; a return to Twickenham, a first ever ERC Semi-Final and continued Magners League success. Over the next three matches, we will be going into the lion's den so to speak, where our players will face a ferocious challenge head on on the pitch. Our supporters will face a similar challenge in the stands, and based on the evidence of past matches, they will be more than capable of providing the passionate and noisy support that can help push the players onto new heights."
Tickets for the EDF Energy Cup Semi-Final double header at the Ricoh Arena are still available to buy, priced at £35, £28, £20 and £10 for under-15s, at www.ticketmaster.co.uk or by ringing 0844 847 2492.
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Rob Howley and Josh Lewsey addressed more than 250 community club coaches and referees at the first WRU National Community Conference on the weekend. The volunteers benefitted from coaching masterclasses and workshops in a bid to connect all levels of the rugby pathway in Wales.
UEFA has today confirmed the Football Association of Wales (FAW) has been successful in its bid for the Millennium Stadium to host the 2017 UEFA Champions League Final on Saturday 3rd June, 2017 (kick-off: 19.45hrs GMT).