Ian Gough will become only the third player ever to complete 200 regional rugby appearances when he turns out for the Ospreys against Glasgow in a crucial RaboDirect PRO12 clash at the Liberty Stadium on Friday (KO 7.05pm).
The second-row stalwart reaches the landmark figure after clocking up 92 appearances for Newport Gwent Dragons and 107 for the Ospreys, and ties with Dragons lock Adam Jones on 200, just weeks after the former Scarlet achieved a double century (109 Scarlets, 91 Dragons). The pair are just behind another second rower, Deiniol Jones, who is currently on 204 (Celtic Warriors 29, Cardiff Blues 176).
Gough signed for the Ospreys back in the summer of 2007 and brought up his century earlier this season away to Connacht back in November. Speaking about reaching the 200 regional appearances landmark, he said:
“It’s a pretty good achievement that I can be proud of. I’ve played a lot of games, and while I was involved in international rugby the number was ticking along in the background, so it’s just nice to reach such a landmark figure and be one of the select few to have played so many regional games since 2003 I suppose.
“I’m one of the first to get 200 and it’s interesting to see that they are all second rows, it must be the way we’re made. I’m really pleased but hopefully there’s a lot more to come from me yet.”
Ospreys Forwards Coach Jonathan Humphreys is a long-time admirer of Gough and he paid tribute to his ‘durability and toughness’.
“Ian Gough is like a fine wine” he said.
“He’s getting better with age. He has been outstanding for us, especially these last couple of years where he has worked hard, added to his game despite all the experience he already has, and has been a great asset in terms of player development, helping others to improve. He’s fantastic working with the young kids coming through and is a great Osprey.
“The 200 milestone for regional rugby is a real achievement and is a sign of his durability and toughness. To do this in just nine years shows how reliable he is, and we’re fortunate to have him continuing to serve us on and off the field for the next two years.”
The ever-modest Gough laughed off the compliments, saying:
“I’m more like a balsamic vinegar than a fine wine, a bit rough round the edges but some people like it. I suppose I enjoy the game and I’ve been very privileged to achieve what I have in my career, travelling all over the world and playing in some wonderful places where I would never have got to visit if I wasn’t playing rugby at this level. I appreciate the support of everyone around me who have helped me get to this level in the first place, then helped keep me there!”
The next big landmark game for Gough to target will be 500 senior rugby appearances, with Friday’s game being his 469th. In addition to his Ospreys and Dragons outings, he has 139 for Newport RFC, 57 for Pontypridd, 64 for Wales and a further nine with Wales A and in uncapped Wales matches, and he says he’s hoping to keep playing long enough to get to the 500.
“500 senior games has to be the next target, that would be fantastic” he said.
“I’ve got two seasons left after this with the Ospreys and to get to 500 games would be a massive achievement towards the end of my career. I’m not quite Ryan Giggs with 900 but rugby is a tough old game. I’ll feel the bumps in a few years time but I’m sure I can get to 500.