Why not beat Toulouse? It's 15 v 15, says Tiatia
HE lives in a land of an emperor, but Filo Tiatia is convinced if the will is there, aristocracy can always be toppled, especially on a rugby field.
The Ospreys legend spoke to the Evening Post from his base in Japan this week to express the view that his old team shouldn't be written off in their dust-up in Swansea tomorrow with the blue bloods of Toulouse.
The four-times European champions are the only French side to ever beat the Welsh region in front of their own supporters. They are the richest club on the continent, generating around three times the amount of revenue the Ospreys manage.
They are also unbeaten in the Heineken Cup this term and defeated Steve Tandy's side decisively at Stade Ernest Wallon six days ago.
On paper, they should again prevail without too many problems.
But Tiatia has long believed the only thing certain about sport is its uncertainty.
"Toulouse are a great rugby club, with a huge supporter base and massive resources," said the former back-rower, these days head coach of Toyota Verblitz.
"Clubs like Toulouse and Leicester are giants of European rugby.
"But once you walk out on the pitch and look across at the opposition, it's 23 against 23. All the money in the world doesn't help if the game starts and the opposition has greater spirit.
"Toulouse can replace internationals with internationals, for sure, but I know how great the supporters are at the Liberty and I'm sure they can lift the Ospreys boys.
"These are the games players love to be involved in.
"The big dogs are coming to Swansea and it is up to the Ospreys to rise to the challenge.
"As underdogs, they have everything to gain."
Tiatia knows what he's talking about when he speaks about the Ospreys being a formidable proposition in Swansea.
In 11 Heineken Cup games at the Liberty as a player, he didn't finish on the losing side once, with ten wins and a draw.
And if the Ospreys class of 2012 are still doubtful about their ability to upset the odds, they could reference the events at Celtic Park last month when Celtic toppled Barcelona in football's Champions League.
Celebrating their 125th birthday, the pride of Glasgow's East End prevailed despite a meagre 16 per cent possession.
Barcelona were beaten by a remarkable fusion of support from the stands and on-pitch passion.
Visiting players who had won the biggest prizes in football were left with no answers against Celtic's history, tradition and blunt refusal to contemplate defeat.
It isn't just important for the Ospreys' slim European hopes that they perform well this weekend.
It would also be huge for Welsh rugby at a time when the optimism gauge is close to zero.
Little money, a Holby City- meets-Casualty injury list, players queuing up for tickets for the P&O ferries to Calais, one win from nine Heineken Cup matches this term, seven defeats in a row for the national team — the feel-bad factor has infected virtually every area of the professional game in these parts.
An against-the-odds Ospreys triumph wouldn't solve the myriad problems.
But it would at least confirm that not every day has to be a sackcloth-and-ashes affair, that the default setting doesn't have to be gloom and depression.
The performance of the Welsh, Scottish and Italians this term, 20 defeats from 21 matches, has led some to lament the implications for the Heineken Cup, with an uncompetitive tournament not being much of a tournament at all.
And at a time when the future of Europe's top-tier non-international rugby event is uncertain, the last thing that needed to happen was for the results to stack up as they have done this season.
An Ospreys win, followed by a success against Leicester in Swansea next month, would be a thumb in the eye for those who have started writing obituary notices for Welsh rugby.
Of course, the safe bet would be on Toulouse once again bringing their power to the table and Steve Tandy's side being unable to do much about it.
The French did not look unbeatable last weekend, playing in patches and displaying little flair, and they have injuries to Luke McAlister and Florian Fritz, further hampering their efforts behind.
But they have such strength up front they will be quietly confident of getting the job done without having to worry about weaving pretty patterns behind.
The Ospreys are going to need big performances from the likes of Justin Tipuric, James King, Ryan Jones, Andrew Bishop and Kahn Fotuali'i, all of whom were excellent out in Toulouse.
King has had barely 20 starts at regional level but he has been outstanding all term, wearing the unmistakable look of an international in the making.
At 22 he has much to learn, but he can play across the back five and made 13 tackles from second row in Toulouse.
Scott Baldwin also had a big game, def- ensively.
"These are kids who you could see were going to be good rugby players," said Tiatia.
"James King is an exciting player, one for the future. He has a good attitude, works hard and can be relied on to come up with performances.
"There are so many talented young- sters at the Ospreys — Lloyd Peers, Scott Baldwin, Ryan Beving- ton, Justin Tipuric and plenty of others. It hasn't surprised me at all that Tipuric is emerging on the international scene. When he first joined the Ospreys he looked a big talent.
"The key for all those players is to hit a high standard every week. When a player does that, you know he's the genuine article.
"An important player for the Ospreys, too, is Andrew Bishop. He is from the Valleys and they breed them tough there. His defence is huge for the team."
Just for once, can a Welsh side rouse itself enough to make Europe sit up and take notice? Injuries have made a massively difficult challenge even tougher again.
There should only be one result, but just occasionally, the well-heeled can take a tumble. How sweet it would be for Welsh rugby if that happened tomorrow.