Showtime: Tandy throws down the Euro gauntlet
WHEN Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday strode purposefully up to the O.K. Corral, they only had to deal with the Clantons and their cold-eyed, sharp- shooting mates.
According to folklore, Robin Hood and his merry men positively dared the Sheriff of Nottingham to come and get them in Sherwood Forest.
But when it comes to throwing down a challenge, you'd guess Steve Tandy probably trumped the lot this week when he pretty much drew up the battle lines for a duel with Leicester's much-vaunted scrum.
That would be the scrum responsible for the club's top scorer this season being penalty tries — eight of them, compared to the five touchdowns apiece by Manu Tuilagi and Adam Thompstone.
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The set-piece is Leicester's pride and joy. They like nothing more than to pack down, scrummage hard and splinter the opposition eight. It is said that in sport all triumph is built on the disappointment of others. At Leicester, they look to build their triumphs on the rubble of other people's scrums.
Under those circumstances, some coaches opt to say little about the set-piece before a meeting with the Tigers, as if hoping not to provoke them.
But Tandy chose a different strategy ahead of the Heineken Cup encounter at the Liberty Stadium.
"The set-piece is going to be huge on Sunday," he said, "and we are really confident in how we scrum.
"We feel we can impose ourselves in that area.
"Leicester probably haven't come up against a scrum like ours in the Aviva Premiership and I can imagine there will be a few penalties and free-kicks as usual.
"We felt a few decisions did not go our way in the match at Welford Road in October and that is something we want to put right."
Short of saying "come and have a go if you think you're hard enough", the Ospreys coach could hardly have thrown down a more explicit challenge.
You can just imagine the likes of Martin Castrogiovanni, Dan Cole, Logovi'i Mulipola and Marcos Ayerza salivating at the prospect of getting up close and personal with a side who have the nerve to fancy their chances in the area where Leicester are strongest.
Not that the Tigers are invincible at the sharp end. Three years ago, the Ospreys destroyed them in that phase in Swansea and Toulouse caused them huge problems earlier this term.
The outcome of the set-piece joust this weekend will go a long way to settling where the spoils end up because a dominant scrum can yield so many penalties, allowing a side to either keep the scoreboard ticking over or camp in opposition territory for significant periods.
Ask the Scarlets. Their set-piece was bulldozed by Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard and Ryan Bevington on Boxing Day, preventing them from getting their game going. The Ospreys' back five were allowed to hold sway and Kahn Fotuali'i and Dan Biggar dictated play from half-back.
So if Jones and Co can deliver again, albeit against an infinitely more powerful scrum, the Ospreys' victory chances will be hugely enhanced.
Where the Ospreys are disadvantaged is that they are without their Wales second rows Alun Wyn Jones and Ian Evans, boasting 92 caps and 253 regional appearances between them.
But Ian Gough, James King and Lloyd Peers did such an impressive job against Toulouse before Christmas that the Liberty coaches will hope their side can once again withstand the absence of their front-line lock pairing.
Fitness concerns over Justin Tipuric, Andrew Bishop and Ashley Beck haven't helped the Ospreys, with all three being checked over before the team was finalised this morning. Beck was rated most doubtful, while the region were keeping fingers crossed over the hard-tackling Bishop and the multi-skilled Tipuric, whose worth was again underlined this week by stats that credit him with more turnovers in Europe this season than the entire Leicester side: nine against the Tigers' eight.
Only Rory Best, with ten, has achieved more, while Tipuric has also made 49 tackles, a total bettered by just three players.
Leicester will look to Toby Flood to pilot their effort after the fly-half avoided a ban for his alleged tip-tackle on Worcester's Andy Goode.
Some would have raised eyebrows at the RFU's decision; others would have regarded it as a joke.
The tackle was worse than the one that saw Lloyd Williams banned for five weeks before Christmas and could have resulted in Goode spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
At best the hit was ugly and dangerous and the decision not to punish Flood sends out a message that rugby is prepared to tolerate acts that could have catastrophic consequences.
Really, an opinion from the IRB's disciplinary chiefs on the incident would be welcome, the same lot who emphasised a zero-tolerance approach to dangerous tackles in 2009.
Don't hold your breath.
But Flood is available to Leicester and the Ospreys just have to make sure he isn't allowed to dictate.
The Welsh side are the only region to have defeated Leicester in the Heineken Cup, with Bishop, Biggar, Adam Jones and Ryan Jones all figuring in the 17-12 success in 2010. The region's line-up that day boasted the likes of Jerry Collins, Tommy Bowe, Lee Byrne, Shane Williams, James Hook, Ricky Januarie and Marty Holah, but the star system has long since been dismantled at the Liberty.
Nowadays the emphasis is on the collective. "It's not about being reliant on individuals," said Tandy this week. "It's surprising what a team can do."
Don't be surprised if individuals within that team effort, like Fotuali'i or Biggar, take the chance to stand out.
But if the blue-collar Ospreys of 2013 are to emulate the glamour boys of three years ago and send Leicester packing, it will be because they function successful as a side, with players going the extra mile for each other and working tirelessly for the cause.
It would also help if Adam Jones, Hibbard and Bevington tucked into some spinach for breakfast.
A mighty challenge awaits.
Home advantage might just prove decisive.