Ospreys built for battle
RYAN Jones believes a "European-standard" front five can help the Ospreys poke a finger in the eye of the doubters who are tipping them to be Heineken Cup also-rans again this season.
Steve Tandy's team open their campaign in Pool 2 when Treviso visit the Liberty Stadium on Friday evening.
But they are being given little chance in a section that contains Toulouse and Leicester, two sides who boast six Heineken Cup final wins between them, with the French aristocrats the only club to have lifted one of the most treasured pieces of silverware in northern hemisphere rugby four times.
The widespread expectation is that the group will become an Anglo-French carve-up — but Jones begs to differ, arguing that the Ospreys' tight forwards, bristling with age, experience and quality, can help ensure the region prove competitive in what is set to be an unforgiving pool.
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"There's no doubt we have a European-standard front five, littered with fantastic individuals who are comfortable playing alongside each other and know what it takes," said Jones.
"A lot of them are starting to age a bit, but that's good because at this level that's what money can't buy."
"A lot of them have been there, done it on this stage and on bigger stages. They bring that experience to the table. We're carrying some youngsters, too — the boys complement each other really well."
Among their front-five forwards, the Ospreys boast Adam Jones, Duncan Jones and Alun Wyn Jones — 211 Test caps between them — plus Richard Hibbard, Ryan Bevington and Ian Evans. Evans and skipper Jones have been at the heart of the region's recent upturn, a revival that has seen them string together three wins in a row.
"The boys were excellent against the Scarlets the other week," said Jones. "They're two guys who have been around an awful long time and it's guys like those who we'll be looking to on the weekend to step up. Once you get characters like that leading the way, it's quite easy to slot in behind and follow."