Shane Williams hopes the Ospreys can continue their excellent form. Pic: ViaPlay.

Shane Williams Is Excited By The Ospreys’ Recent Momentum . . . But Toby Booth Is Still Wary Of Leinster’s Strengths

By Harry Corish
Shane Williams insists the Ospreys are back to their best – and can prove it with a statement win over eight-times URC Champions Leinster this weekend.

The Swansea-based region take on the only side left unbeaten in the URC this season, Leinster – who have won their first 11 games of the campaign – in a game that is live on S4C on Saturday.

But Williams insists Toby Booth’s men have come into their own over the past few weeks, picking up one of the most impressive European wins by a Welsh side for over a decade when they beat French Champions Montpellier before Christmas, 21-10 away from home.

They followed that with two further wins against the Scarlets (34-14) and Cardiff (22-19) during the Welsh festive derbies.

But they continue to be tested as part of a gruelling schedule, as they are set to face Leinster before confronting the current French and English Champions in Europe.

Williams said: “I think the win in Montpellier has awakened this Ospreys side.

“I’m not sure if they went into the game expecting the win, but they will be confident they can compete against the better sides now.

“Toby Booth will be waking up scratching his head trying to understand why they can’t play like that week in week out, but maybe they have found that balance they have been searching for all year.

“I don’t think I have seen an Ospreys performance like the one out in Montpellier for about ten years. I have really been impressed by their defence this year, but when they had the ball in hand, they looked dangerous.

“It has been an issue this year and teams have had a lot of ball against the Ospreys, and have punished them for that reason, but there seems to be a never-say-die attitude in the camp.

“There is a positive feeling now, and it is hugely exciting as they face the likes of Leinster and Leicester in the next few weeks.”

Head coach Booth will be delighted with his squad’s efforts over the Christmas period, but with a crucial block of fixtures coming up before the Six Nations, it is important the Ospreys are able to continue their push towards the final URC shake-up.

Both the Ospreys and Leinster have become adept at utilising kicking strategies this season.

Leinster have made the third most kicks in the URC this season, including the most kicks from hand (288), while the Ospreys have made the second most (287), as both teams search to win the territory battle.

The Ospreys changed their approach during the game against Cardiff, often keeping the ball in play.

It proved they can vary their kicking game and Booth insists that will be pivotal along with the battle at the breakdown.

Booth said: “It has been extremely tough during this period, I don’t think I’ve had a more difficult set of fixtures in my career, but it’s also exciting in a way.

“It’s what you want as players and coaches – to be challenging and picking your wits against the very best.

“How you kick and how you deal with kicks is absolutely paramount to being successful. We have done a lot of work on that side of the game, and we are now seeing the rewards, as we win more battles.

“The discipline around our decision making will be crucial. Leinster are very disciplined with everything they do.

“The reason they are the team that they are is that they have massive confidence, and they have an unbelievable execution rate.”

The likes of Jac Morgan, Morgan Morris and Justin Tipuric will be looking to impress new Wales coach Warren Gatland, as they go head-to-head against Leinster’s Ireland internationals.

The Dublin province boast back row talent in abundance in the shape of World Rugby Men’s player of the year, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris and Ryan Baird.

“We have to look after the ball better, we have to control territory and make sure we are not losing possession in our half, ” added Booth.

“We have a blueprint in defence and the boys are really fighting for each other.

“The momentum Leinster build is massive; it comes from their ball carrying and their breakdown work. They are the most consistent breakdown team in the league, and there is no coincidence that they sit top of the league.

“It is going to be a battle of territory, but territory is obviously relinquished by the quality of the ball speed and the momentum of the carries. So, I think the breakdown is an absolutely key battle.

“Leinster possess a lot of quality and they have threats in all areas of their game.

“We have to be at our best to deal with them. But we have got momentum with us and if we can pick up a result then that will give us more to move forward with.”

S4C – Saturday, 19.30pm: Ospreys Leinster

Live Coverage of the BKT United Rugby Championship match between the Ospreys and Leinster

English commentary available. K/O 7.35

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