James King can add regal touch for Ospreys against Leinster in Heineken Cup
NEEDING a regal performance against Leinster at the Liberty, the Ospreys have no doubt about the ability of the King in their ranks to cope with the challenge of European rugby.
James King had an imperious first Heineken Cup campaign, stepping into a weakened side and taking command of the line-out in titanic clashes with Toulouse and Leicester.
Playing at lock, he featured in four matches all told and came up with 23 clean takes, including two steals, impressing the coaches with his calling, jumping and quick feet.
The back-five forward also drew on his experiences as a blindside flanker to put in 43 tackles.
The Ospreys had a decision to make today about whether to name him in their side for the Pool 1 game with Leinster tomorrow evening, but on the evidence of their press conference earlier this week, the coaches were edging towards giving him the nod.
"There is an opportunity for James to make a name for himself in the Heineken Cup this year," said assistant coach Gruff Rees.
"There again, I think he did that last year.
"He was unbelievable with his performances in Europe — back to back against Toulouse, the Leicester game at the Liberty.
"His numbers and work-rate showed he could cope with this level easily."
If anything King has improved this season.
Even in a team with such outstanding defenders as Sam Lewis, Justin Tipuric and Andrew Bishop, he is heading the tackle count, with 46 from just three full outings.
It is that appetite for graft that appeals to the Ospreys coaches and is one of the reasons why they believe the 23-year-old has a big future.
The team management faced their toughest selection of the season, with Ryan Jones back in training, bringing with him the calming influence and vast experience that could prove so important in a high-stakes match like the one in Swansea tomorrow.
Assuming Jones is fit, it pointed to a straight pick between King and Ian Evans at lock, with the coaches having previously made clear their view that King is a first-choice player.