This is do or die, warns Fussell ahead of Saints
THERE is a case for believing match schedulers should have done the decent thing and brought forward Sunday's Heineken Cup encounter between Northampton and the Ospreys by 45 minutes into the high-noon slot.
For someone is going to take a bullet and see their hopes in the competition effectively killed off for the season.
Each side lost in the opening round of matches and so can ill afford another defeat, with the Ospreys' situation marginally worse because they didn't even pick up a bonus point when going down to Leinster at home.
But they are under no illusions about what's facing them.
"It is do or die," declared Richard Fussell.
"Going away from home, we might be the underdogs — who knows? — but we have to go up there to win.
"It is early days, but we've both lost and so it is fair to say it's a do-or-die situation.
"We have to put our best performance out there and hopefully come away with a win."
To achieve that aim, the Ospreys will first need to rediscover their attacking game after two matches when they have failed to score a try.
They had crossed the opposition line a dozen times in two games before the run started, but against Leinster last weekend they ran up blind alleys and failed to take either of the two chances they created.
None of which sat well with Fussell.
He has been an important player at the Ospreys, a key influence who has helped guide youngsters in the back three and provide a key counter-attacking dimension himself, but Leinster were so well organised that he, Eli Walker and Ben John got zero change out their defence.
It wasn't just those three who hit a wall of frustration, either.
There wasn't a single line break until Jeff Hassler came on and made two in the final quarter, one of them after being put clear by Justin Tipuric.
What went wrong? "I just don't think our attack turned up," said Fussell.
"We lost our way and we lost our shape — I can't say why. We had a great build-up and were ready to go. But on the day little things didn't go our way.
"It was frustrating, but there's no one person to blame. It was a team issue rather than an individual one and we all have to put it right.
"Not scoring tries over our last two games isn't really a concern, because in the two matches prior to that we scored 12. It's something we can put right and we will put right for this weekend."
The Ospreys are bracing themselves for a stern challenge, however.
Northampton have been in form in the Aviva Premiership, drawing away at Leicester a week last Saturday, and are stacked with quality up front and behind.
They boast a physical pack, spearheaded by Courtney Lawes, Dylan Hartley and Lions surprise package Alex Corbisiero, and like to impose themselves.
"It's going to be a tough old day at the office because Northampton are no mugs: they're a quality outfit in the Aviva Premiership and have been tipped to win this competition or at least make the last four," said Fussell.
"We don't come across English clubs very often, so in that sense it's kind of unknown territory for us. They all fit the same mould in that they are big, physical, confrontational guys, and you just have to match that.
"Northampton also have quality backs, having made good signings, with George (North) and Kahn (Fotuali'i).
"But we are trying to focus on ourselves.
"We have an outstanding pack and a dangerous backline as well. We have to try to outwit them, play the game as we want to play it and come away with the win."
Fussell acknowledges the importance of silencing the Franklin's Gardens crowd with a big opening.
"They have got great support up there, the fans get behind them and it's not far off a sell-out every week," he added.
"We have to silence that early on, impose ourselves and show we are there to play and we are there to win."
It is all about being cold-eyed and clinical, for in the Heineken Cup a team that spurns chances is a team that ends up being knocked out.