Ospreys warned to expect an Italian storm
JONATHAN Humphreys has told the Ospreys players they can expect to have their character tested against Italian opponents who will be “desperate” to succeed in front of their own fans tonight (7.05 BST).
The Liberty Stadium region start their defence of the Pro12 title with a tricky encounter against Treviso at the Monigo Stadium.
They will do so without the injured Justin Tipuric and Ryan Jones, while Adam Jones is held back after his exertions with Wales earlier this summer.
Ahead of the trip to northern Italy, Humphreys said: “It’s going to be a difficult evening.
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“It will be warm and we’ll be up against tough opponents desperate to start on a high in front of their own fans.
“It’ll be a test of character for us but we are really looking forward to getting back into it.”
Humphreys continued: “Treviso is a difficult place to go at any time, but to make the trip on the opening weekend of the season is particularly tough. They are a good team who are a match for anyone on their day. They’ve recruited well so will be confident.”
The Ospreys will take the field with eight of the side who started in the Pro12 final against Leinster in May.
The back row is changed en bloc, with James King, Jonathan Thomas and Sam Lewis coming in for Jones, Joe Bearman and Tipuric.
A hip injury picked up in training means Tipuric joins Jones on the sidelines, but the flanker isn’t expected to be ruled out for long — the region hope he’ll be ready for the home game with Ulster a week tomorrow.
They are particularly pleased to see Thomas return after a chest problem ruled him out of the final two months of last season.
“You want all your good players fit and well and Jonathan definitely fits into that category,” said Humphreys.
“Like every year there’s a sense of optimism at the start of the season but this year it’s a bit different. We have over 9,000 season ticket holders eagerly awaiting the first home game against Ulster next weekend, and we’ve seen how the community has got behind the cause at events like the kit launch. There is a real buzz about the place.
“We have a strong core of players here, and there’s another level of young players coming through below them who are the future of the region.
“We are all about development from within and this weekend sees Tom Grabham as the latest local youngster to graduate into the senior squad. He is someone who will be looking to take his chance just as the likes of Hanno Dirksen, James King and Ashley Beck did last year.”