Beck ready to up his game as serious stuff starts
ASHLEY Beck admits it has been a slow-burn start to the season for him in the Pro12.
But the Heineken Cup is here and the classy centre is in the mood to reignite the form that earned him a Wales call-up for the tour to Australia in the summer.
There have been signs in recent weeks that things are starting to fit into place. The man who set up more tries last season than anyone at the Ospreys created two touchdowns against Munster 13 days ago and one against Zebre last Friday.
Assists are his trademark. At one point in 2011-12 close on every Ospreys try seemed to have the Beck stamp on, prompting Tommy Bowe to say: "Ashley just has a knack of setting up scores. It's great to play alongside him."
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
But Beck feels he has scope to improve as the autumn Tests draw closer.
"My form is steady but I'm not in the place I want to be," he said.
"I want to perform a lot better.
"I've just have to get that spark back and do what I was doing at the end of last season. I didn't have a great start a year ago and things weren't really happening.
"But then I clicked into gear and started enjoying my rugby.
"Maybe it's just a case of weathering the storm. I hope it goes the way of last season."
Encouragingly for the Ospreys ahead of their game with Treviso in Swansea this evening, Beck's most impressive performances so far this term have come against Italian opposition. In Treviso on the opening night of the campaign, the three-cap youngster went through his repertoire, gliding through defences, leaving would-be tacklers clutching thin air, offloading and creating space for others with his passing.
He has the knack of evading those who would seek to leave their imprints on him in contact. On one occasion at the Stadio Monigo six weeks ago, an opponent had lined him up and was poised for the hit of the day, one that would no doubt have been toasted in the bar later, only for Beck to shake his hips and pass him.
It isn't just self-preservation that allows him to do that. It is also spatial awareness and quick thinking: the ability to weigh up situations in a micro-second and act before anyone else has registered what is happening.
Rob Howley saw enough to call the 22-year-old into his squad and the youngster repaid his faith by having a hand in two of Wales's four tries in the series Down Under, memorably offloading out of a tackle within two minutes of his arrival on the pitch to set up a score for Alex Cuthbert.
It was some statement of intent in international rugby, a calling card from a player who is going to be on the Test scene for a long time.
"I really enjoyed the tour," said Beck.
"It was nice to get out there and finally get that cap. You never really want to let go of a jersey you are wearing, so let's see how it goes over the next few months.
"There are big games against the best players from each country coming up in the Heineken now. It will be good to test myself, and there will be good tests for the team.
"Everyone has to pick it up and perform."
The 22-year-old is helped by playing in a settled midfield unit at the Liberty, alongside Dan Biggar and Andrew Bishop.
They are the Ospreys' version of the Killer Bs: Biggar, Beck and Bishop. All with different qualities, all capable of stinging the opposition.
"It's great playing alongside the boys," said Beck.
"Andrew is on form and Dan has been playing brilliantly.
"We've had a season playing together, there's a good mix to our game and it can only get better the more we play."
Beck continued: "Andrew doesn't get the praise he deserves.
"He has been around regional rugby for a long time, playing with the likes of James Hook and Gavin Henson, and he knows how to win a tight game. His kicking out of hand and his skills, like his passing, are good, and when we are in defence he is such a big personality.
"He brings that something extra and it's good for me and Dan to have him there.
"Dan is only young but he has been around a few years and I think it's fair to say everyone wants someone like him in their side, a player who will kick goals and keep the scoreboard ticking over.
"We wouldn't have won the Pro12 play-off final in Leinster last season if he hadn't converted Shane Williams's two tries from the touchline. You go out on the pitch with Dan expecting points when he's kicking at goal."
Treviso will arrive in Swansea as a team in form, having beaten Edinburgh on the road a week ago.
But the Ospreys are not exactly out of touch themselves.
They have improved with every game this season and are entering Europe fuelled by confidence after three straight wins.
"We see this as an exciting group," said Beck.
"Toulouse and Leicester are big teams who have gone far in this competition nearly every year and Treviso are not going to be a pushover, either.
"But this is why you play rugby and we are all looking forward to it.
"You have to be motivated by the prospect of going up against the likes of Leicester and Toulouse, while we know we are going to have to perform against Treviso because they beat us early in the season and had a good win in Scotland last weekend.
"We weren't clinical against them in August and couldn't get over the try-line, but we have looked sharper with ball in hand these last few weeks."
For all concerned at the Liberty, this is where the serious stuff starts.