Ospreys derby mission - stop George North!
THE Ospreys must do something nobody else has managed this season if they are to beat the Scarlets — stop George North.
The rampaging Wales wing has scored four tries in his three matches so far, helping the Scarlets storm to the top of the table with three consecutive bonus-point wins.
In stark contrast, the Ospreys have lost all three of their RaboDirect Pro12 fixtures to date, leaving them second from bottom of the table.
And as the reigning champions prepare for Friday night's derby at Parc y Scarlets, their forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys has identified the hosts' most potent threat.
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"George North is phenomenal," he said.
"It will be a big challenge for us to curb him. He is a player who makes scoring tries look easy. He's a phenomenal talent.
"We just have to deny him as much possession as we can."
North heads into Friday's derby insisting he is loving rugby again.
The 20-year-old was plagued by a groin injury at the end of a marathon 2011-12 campaign and carried the problem during Wales's summer tour of Australia.
But after some well-earned rest to recharge the batteries, North has returned to Scarlets colours with a bang, showing the type of form that makes him a leading contender for a Lions Test berth next year.
"I am really enjoying my rugby again," said the North Walian wing.
"I went through the stage last season when I had a niggling groin injury which put a downer on everything and I found it hard to get up for games.
"I was fortunate to have five and a bit weeks off during the summer, which was perfect to switch off from rugby, go home see the family, get away and get the mind and body relaxed before coming back in. It is just what I needed."
North's blistering form has been one of a number of reasons why the Scarlets currently sit on top of the RaboDirect Pro12 table. Connacht couldn't handle his pace and power in Galway last Saturday and the Ospreys will need to show all their defensive nous to halt one of the rising stars of the world game.
"It has been a good start for me and the team, but the forwards have worked hard and stepped up to the plate and we have had a good platform to play off," he added.
"You look at someone like Richard Kelly and he has been phenomenal. He has put his heart and soul into it since he came here from day one. He is working hard, making big carries and that is helping us as backs."
The Scarlets go into Friday's derby in the unaccustomed position of firm favourites, with the Ospreys having endured a miserable start to the defence of their league title.
"We are playing a great brand of rugby and the favourites tag is deserved," added North. "But it is a derby and we know they will be stepping it up for this game.
"We have had a good start. The key is keeping it going and making sure when teams come to our house it is going to be a hard game for them.
"The Ospreys have had a difficult start to the season and will be hurting.
"We have been in a similar position in the past and when it comes to the derby games, you look for that big scalp to get you on your way.
"But we have been playing some good rugby and it will be hard for them coming here, the way are playing."
Meanwhile, South African lock Joe Snyman is due to meet up with his new team-mates tomorrow after the Scarlets negotiated an early release from his contract with Currie Cup side Eastern Province Kings.
As for the other new signings, Pumas lock Tomas Vallejos is likely to link up with the squad early next month in readiness for the start of the Heineken Cup, while South African prop Jacobie Adriaanse is not expected until November.
More than 10,500 tickets have been sold for the match as of yesterday afternoon.