Welcome to the next generation of Ospreys
STEVE Tandy has hailed his rising stars as the Ospreys prepare to launch their LV= Cup campaign against Gloucester at the Liberty tonight (7.45).
Supporters will get the chance to see the region's next generation of talent after Tandy named a young side for the start of the Anglo-Welsh competition.
With Wales players on international duty and more senior squad members rested, Sam Lewis will skipper the side this evening.
The LV= Cup has become a springboard for emerging Ospreys talent in recent seasons.
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The likes of Justin Tipuric, Ashley Beck and Rhys Webb have all gone on to establish themselves after getting their break in this competition.
"The potential within this group is really positive," said Tandy.
"It could take some of these guys two years to come through, it could take others six months, but the more exposure they get at this level the better.
"We want to give our youngsters every opportunity to prove themselves.
"We really pride ourselves on our young guys.
"We want them to enjoy the occasion, but we've prepared for it like any other week.
"I want to win, but there's something to be said for getting these guys game time and understanding what goes into the week when you're a professional rugby player."
The Ospreys are on a run of six wins from their last seven games. Their only defeat in that sequence came in a Heineken Cup clash with Leicester a fortnight ago.
Despite that, they remain in contention to qualify from their pool and sit fifth in the RaboDirect Pro12 table.
The Ospreys defeated Leicester to lift the EDF Energy Cup in 2008, but the Anglo-Welsh tournament has changed since then.
"We've got to be realistic," he said.
"When we won it we had a lot of senior professionals playing.
"Now there are different levels of competition. We have taken the opportunity to add some freshness to the squad and give some young lads a chance.
"We're really excited about that and it's an opportunity for supporters to see the next group coming through.
"We've always wanted to do that, but with budgets as they are, we have to do it a little quicker."
The match also sees former Scarlets head coach Nigel Davies return to South Wales with his new club, while his son Sam is named on the Ospreys bench.
Gloucester head into the match after a 28-25 loss to Harlequins, but they sit fourth in the Aviva Premiership.
"Sam will have plenty of rugby in this LV series and I know Gloucester will probably mix and match as well because it's an opportunity for them to have a look at some of their players," said Tandy.
Ben John reckons the region's young guns will take inspiration from last Sunday's victory against Leinster when they take on Gloucester.
Tandy's side trailed 10-9 at half-time five days ago but finished 19-10 winners.
And John, who will line up in the centre this evening, believes the Ospreys can build on the momentum created by their more experienced colleagues.
"It was a great performance and win in the end given the start we had," he said. "The internationals are away and some of the boys from last week are away so it gives some of the other boys like me an opportunity. It's all about building a strong squad — that's how teams start winning things.
"If we can win without the star names, it will show the depth of quality we have."
John is preparing to make only his fifth ever appearance for the Ospreys.
"Gloucester have been doing really well in the league, they're strong up front and sound defensively so it will be a big challenge for us," he added.
Gloucester, meanwhile, include Ross Moriarty, the son of former Whites favourite Paul.
Ospreys: R. Jones; T. Grabham, B. John, J. Spratt, W. Price; M. Morgan, R. Webb; M. Thomas, M. Dwyer, J. Rees, L. Peers, J. King, G. Stowers, M. Allen, S. Lewis (capt). Reps: S. Otten, N. Smith, N. Thomas, R. Hughes, A. Ellis, T. Habberfield, N. Edwards.
Gloucester: M. Thomas; S. Monahan, D. Locke, T. Molenaar, I. Clark; T. Taylor, D. Robson; Y. Thomas, T. d'Apice, D. Chistolini; E. Stooke, W. Graulich; R. Moriarty, P. Buxton (capt), M. Cox. Reps: K. Britton, D. Murphy, T. Heard, E. King, B. Sparks, D. Lewis, B. Burns, S. Reynolds.