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Getting to know…the Ospreys

Daniel Barnes

12 Aug 2017

One of the four Welsh powerhouses operating in the Guinness PRO14, Ospreys are the joint most-successful side in the championship.

Only Leinster can match the Liberty Stadium outfit’s four titles and Steve Tandy’s side will be aiming to challenge for honours once again when the new season gets under way.

Last season, they secured a fourth-placed finish before being knocked out in the semi-finals and in the new, expanded Guinness PRO14 format, they will ply their trade in Conference A.

History

Formed as Neath-Swansea Ospreys following the regionalisation of Welsh Rugby in 2003, they went on to finish fifth in their first Celtic League campaign.

At the end of their second season, in which they became reigning champions, they dropped ‘Neath-Swansea’ and began operating under the name Guinness PRO14 fans are so familiar with today – the Ospreys moniker was inspired by the large bird of prey that featured on the Swansea RFC centenary badge.

Since then, they have won the championship twice more, triumphing over Leinster in the 2009-10 and 2011-12 seasons respectively, and have never finished lower than eighth in the table.

Captain – Alun Wyn Jones

Wales’ most-capped lock forward, Alun Wyn Jones has spent his entire professional career with the Ospreys, making his debut in 2005.

Swansea-born Jones was handed the captaincy in 2010 and succeeded his British & Irish Lions colleague Ryan Jones.

The Ospreys stalwart, who is in the midst of his third spell as Wales skipper, also featured prominently for the Lions as they claimed a series draw against the All Blacks in New Zealand this summer.

Coach – Steve Tandy

Steve Tandy spent his playing career with Neath and then the Ospreys before taking over as the region’s head coach.

In total, he played 102 times for the club, scoring 10 tries, with his final appearance coming against Edinburgh in March 2010.

At the age of just 32, the former flanker was handed the reins from Sean Holley and has led his side to two semi-final appearances and just one league finish outside the top five.

Star man – Justin Tipuric

Thoughts may usually turn to Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb when discussing the shining light at the Ospreys but Justin Tipuric deserves to be the name on the tip of many a tongue.

The 28-year-old, a Welsh international since 2011, travelled to New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions this summer and was unlucky not to earn a Test cap following a string of impressive performances in the Southern Hemisphere.

Flanker Tipuric possesses an arsenal of qualities that make him a veritable force of nature in the Guinness PRO14 – such as brilliant rugby brain and his unrelenting stamina – and he will be right at the heart of Ospreys’ next stab at glory.

Player to watch – Keelan Giles

Keelan Giles made his Ospreys debut against Treviso in September 2016 and promptly scored what would be the first of 14 tries for the season.

The 19-year-old winger, from Swansea, has whipped up a groundswell of hype and is already being touted as the future of Welsh rugby – he has already been called up by his country numerous times but is yet to make his senior international debut.

If he can avoid ‘second season syndrome’, Giles could have a huge impact for Ospreys in 2017-18.

Stadium

In July 2005, the Liberty Stadium, the largest purpose-built venue in Swansea, opened its doors.

Also the home of Premier League football club Swansea City, the Liberty was known as the White Rock Stadium during construction and it recorded its first capacity crowd of 20,520 when the Ospreys beat Australia in November 2006.

Currently the third-largest stadium in Wales, a possible expansion of the stadium has been mooted.

Historic rivalries

Ospreys enjoy a healthy rivalry with the three other Welsh regional sides but there is a particular edge to their clashes with Scarlets.

That rivalry harks back to historical derby matches between Llanelli and Swansea, and Llanelli and Neath.