Jonathan Humphreys hails Ospreys' Richard Hibbard one of the best around
RICHARD Hibbard will face the Dragons at Rodney Parade on New Year's Eve with the Ospreys feting him as the premier hooker in Europe.
The 29-year-old has been unable to establish himself with Wales and has never once started a Six Nations game.
But after hurrying back from a serious shoulder injury, he has engaged his best form with big performances against Toulouse and the Scarlets.
"He's outstanding," said forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys.
"I don't think there's much to touch him in Europe right now.
"You know what you are going to get with him every time he takes the field. He gives everything for the cause.
"We are really pleased with what he's offering us at the Ospreys."
Hibbard could have been forgiven for still being sidelined after the shoulder injury he suffered against Samoa on November 16.
It was thought the bump could keep him out for between six and ten weeks.
But he made it back in four.
"He's come back from injury in half the time that people said he should have come back in, which speaks volumes for the kid," said Humphreys.
"I was watching the game against Samoa when he got injured. He was still trying to carry the ball, with a grade 3 shoulder-joint injury. I thought: 'My god'.
"For him to pull himself off the field, I knew it was something ridiculously serious. But he said he'd be all right for Toulouse, and he was."
Jonathan Thomas is expected to play a part against the Dragons after close on two months out with groin trouble. "He'll be involved," confirmed Humphreys. "He's fully fit and in contention for selection."
The Ospreys are reminding supporters they can have the chance to see three games live at the Liberty for £35 in the new year.
The matches covered are the Pro12 games against Zebre on January 4 and Edinburgh on February 22 and the Heineken Cup date with Leicester on January 13.
"It's an incredible deal," said chief operations officer Andrew Hore.