Ospreys looking for Euro lift-off
THE Ospreys hope to rocket into Europe on the strength of a big Pro12 display against Zebre in Parma on Friday evening.
"We want to finish this block of Pro12 games with a performance and in a healthy state," said assistant coach Gruff Rees, "and use the match in Parma as a launchpad for the European dates to follow.
"It's another building block for us to get better."
The Ospreys were pleased with the way they sent Munster packing last weekend, believing a 30-15 win over the twice-European champions will boost confidence at a key stage of the season. They didn't just dominate the Irish province up front; they broke them with relentless graft and overwhelming physicality.
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Now they want to make further progress up a congested league table in which just eight points covers 11 teams, while remaining conscious that the Heineken Cup is around the corner, starting a week on Friday when Treviso visit Swansea.
"The key thing this weekend is that we come up with a professional performance in Parma," said Rees. "Zebre will be a different type of opposition, the sort we haven't always dealt with going over to Italy in the past.
"We lost to Treviso a few weeks ago, and even in our games with Aironi, we've been dragged down, turgid and could have lost.
"So we have to make sure we apply the same attitude to ball in play that we had against Munster, but our physicality and directness has to come to the fore as well."
Fundamental to the upturn in the Ospreys' fortunes over the past fortnight has been the form of Richard Hibbard, the hooker marking his 100th league appearance with a man-of-the-match show against Munster.
He has spent more time on the field than any other forward at the Liberty this season and is one of only two to start all five games.
"Richard has put his hand up in every match so far this season," said Rees.
"Only a few boys have started every game, Richard being one of them, and he has really carried the mantle in terms of his tackling, ball-carrying, work-rate and appetite for the game.
"He's all around the park and has been fantastic for us. He's a true Osprey who's proud to do what he does. He's in a rich vein of form."