Alex Morris is a 21 year old, half-Welsh English graduate of Swansea University and Ospreys supporter. He plays at outside half for his local side. He has supported Wales and Ospreys since he took up rugby at the age of 14, when the school team pinned his hands down to stop him signing up for badminton.
How do you top a title win? That’s the question facing the Ospreys as the clock counts down towards the start of the 2012/13 season. The reigning RaboDirect PRO12 champions will be aiming to triumph again, show that they are a force in the Northern Hemisphere despite their failings in Europe.
It will be Steve Tandy’s first full season in charge and it will be interesting to see how the coach that the players have affectionately dubbed ‘Jose Mourinho’ can make his mark on the early days. He guided the boat into harbour after Johnson and Holley abandoned ship, but can he plot the course?
He certainly has the team to do so. 10 Ospreys graced the team sheet on the Wales tour to Australia; a further 6 started in the historic Wales win in the Junior World Cup over the Baby Blacks. Littered amongst the ranks lie players with a great many accolades. Beck and Tipuric were named in the 11/12 RaboDirect PRO12 Dream Team, the blue-hatted 7 pipping even his Wales captain to the post.
The first choice 10, Dan Biggar, is already the highest scoring Osprey and will hope to add to his tally over the coming months. However, opinion will be further divided over the marmite playmaker, as his recent magnificent form puts forward a strong case for him assuming the Wales berth. After a solid enough performance against the Barbarians, in which he was shockingly relinquished of kicking duties, many thought him desperately unlucky not to be hopping onto the plane down under. But, was having the only world class 10 in the competition during the Six Nations the deciding factor in finishing so high up the table?
Adam Jones, too, deserves mention. The fact that he has stayed on, when he could name his price in the foreign market, says so much about the passion for the region, and the shaggy-haired anchor should keep the scrum competitive.
Especially since the front row has seen an exodus – Huw Bennett and Paul James, scampering off to the Top 15 and Premiership respectively. Step forward from the ranks Richie Hibbard, and the young front row talent of Ryan Bevington, as snugly fitting replacements. Another exit that you may have blinked and missed is that of flash-in-the-pan, Shane Williams.
A man who had more final games than I’ve had hot dinners and is out in Japan scoring tries for fun (literally, for a change as he’s retired, don’t you know?) Tommy Bowe and Nikki Walker both join Shane in walking away. Is the back three a weakness? Not if Eli Walker and Hanno Dirksen have anything to say about it. Especially the South African-American (Welsh?) flyer who made his mark in magnificent and memorable fashion by touching down for some corkers last year, being rewarded with a 2-year extension in May.
The signs are good for next year: a strong team; and boundaries being pushed in other areas, such as seeing record-breaking season ticket sales. Confirmation needs to emerge, though, that the Ospreys are more than lucky. We showed real resolve last year (Play-Off v Munster), but the team in the Final may not be playing their second game in a week again (unless it’s us!).
Best signing – Re-signing of Spratt. Another Wales international and local talent to the side. Experience in prem and southern hemisphere.
Opening day prediction – Ospreys to beat Treviso by 8 points.
Season prediction – Ospreys finish 3rd before the Play-Offs.
Other predictions – Ulster to be in the Final.
RaboDirect PRO12 winners – Ospreys.