Ospreys sign Italy No. 9 Tito Tebaldi to replace Kahn Fotuali'i
THE Ospreys have signed Italian Test scrum-half Tito Tebaldi as the man to replace Kahn Fotuali’i at the Liberty Stadium.
Tebaldi, capped 16 times for the Azzurri, has agreed a two-year deal with the region and will join from Pro12 basement side Zebre.
The 25-year-old is rated highly by the Ospreys coaching team who see him as the ideal competitor to fill the void left by Fotuali’i’s move to Northampton Saints this summer.
“Having worked with him previously I’ve no doubt whatsoever that Tito will be a great addition to the Ospreys squad,” said backs coach Gruff Rees, who coached Tebaldi at Aironi last season.
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“Close observers of the Welsh game will have witnessed his man-of-the-match performances at Rodney Parade and Parc y Scarlets in the past two seasons, whilst he has been a standout performer on both his Liberty Stadium appearances, including scoring a try here in January.
“From personal experience, I have seen at close quarters how he challenges fringe defenders and has a top-class kicking game with a fantastic defensive understanding and work rate.
“He is an impressive character with a burning desire to succeed and willingness to drive himself and others relentlessly.
“He hasn’t always got the recognition he deserves because his desire hasn’t always endeared himself to others in Italian rugby, meaning he hasn’t truly established himself as much as his ability merits.
“However, this move can be a real opportunity for Tito and I feel he will add a real presence to the group and create great competition with our two gifted young Welsh nines.”
Tebaldi, who can also play fly-half and full-back, will fight it out for the No. 9 jersey with Wales international Rhys Webb and under-20s cap Tom Habberfield.
“I’m excited about this fantastic opportunity with the Ospreys,” he said. “Their record in the Pro12 speaks for itself and the chance to be a part of such a successful club is something I couldn’t turn down.”
Meanwhile, Jonathan Humphreys has told the Ospreys players a huge effort will be required for them to defuse the crowd factor in Limerick this evening (6.30).
The Pro12 champions face Munster in a league encounter that will be vital to the play-off hopes of both sides.
“Visiting sides have struggled at Thomond Park because there’s a huge amount of vocal support,” he said.
“The place is steeped in the tradition of a very, very successful Munster team and there’s an expectation on the home players to win, and they generally do.
“We are lucky enough to have gone there on a couple of occasions in recent times and come away with positive results, but it’s been off the back of huge efforts with more or less a full-strength side.
“So we understand what is happening now and what it takes to win, but we are going to need a big effort.”
The Ospreys are led by Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones, while centre Ashley Beck makes his first start of 2013.
Munster make five changes from the side beaten 34-10 in Treviso last weekend with All Black wing Doug Howlett and veteran Ireland fly-half Ronan O’Gara returning to the starting XV.
MUNSTER: F. Jones; D. Howlett (capt), C. Laulala, J. Downey, D. Hurley; R. O’Gara, C. Sheridan; D. Kilcoyne, D. Varley, S. Archer, I. Nagle, B. Holland, P. Butler, J. Coughlan, T. O’Donnell. Reps: M. Sherry, W. du Preez, BJ. Botha, D. Foley, S. Dougall, D. Williams, I. Keatley, I. Dineen.
OSPREYS: R. Fussell; T. Habberfield, J. Spratt, A. Beck, T. Isaacs; M. Morgan, K. Fotuali’i; D. Jones, S. Baldwin, C. Griffiths, AW. Jones (capt), L. Peers, J. King, J. Thomas, S. Lewis. Reps: M. Dwyer, M. Thomas, D. Arhip, I. Gough, D. Baker, A. Ellis/S. Davies, R. Webb, T. Grabham.