Ospreys skipper and second-row Alun-Wyn Jones believes his side are well placed to realise their potential in the Heineken Cup.
Ospreys skipper and second-row forward Alun-Wyn Jones believes his side are well placed to realise their potential in this year's Heineken Cup.
The Welsh region, despite boasting a plethora of talent within their ranks, have failed to progress beyond the quarter-final stage in Europe's premier club competition.
The Ospreys have also missed out on the knockout rounds of the tournament for the past three seasons, last qualifying from their group in the 2009/10 campaign.
With a tough pool to contend with, featuring Top 14 champions Castres, three-time champions Leinster, and the prowess of English Premiership's Northampton Saints, Jones knows the region will need to be at their best.
“We're the perennial underachievers in the Heineken Cup and always get the pool of death because we have underachieved. It's always going to be a hard pool because the best sides are in this competition,” the captain told the ERC website.
“I regret saying we've under achieved, not because of the sentiment but because everybody's used it in a question to me. It's not something we want but the tagline has already been put on us and our pool because we've under achieved in the past.
“That's because we've been honest with the media and with ourselves and said 'look, we have under achieved and drawing a line in the sand and moving on is par for the course in starting success'.
“The Heineken Cup is like a second start to the season with players coming back and a new competition. As long as we translate the form we've had in the Rabo into the Heineken, we'll be pretty close.”
The Ospreys open their campaign on Saturday, welcoming Leinster to the Liberty Stadium, and a home victory will be key to any chances of qualification from the difficult pool.
Jones denied that the presence of many British and Irish Lions on both teams would add to his side's motivation for the clash.
“I don't think that adds anything extra. It'll be the rugby perspective rather than the social side that will be crucial for us,” he said.
“Our record against them is pretty good and we know a lot about them, just as they do us. We've done pretty well against them in a couple of Rabo games when we weren't expected to.
“Both us and them will probably field stronger sides for the first hit out in the Heineken Cup. They've got a bit of depth at 10: is it going to be (Jimmy) Gopperth or is it going to be (Ian) Madigan, so there's a little bit of the unknown for us in that regard.”
The skipper does believe, however, that coach Steve Tandy has struck a fine balance in the Ospreys squad between emerging home-grown talent and relatively unknown foreign imports.
“We're fortunate that we've got a lot of boys who were coached by Steve (head coach Steve Tandy) when Steve was at Bridgend and they've come through now, have had a taste of regional rugby and are adding to our strength in depth,” said Jones.
“You add that to the signings we made like Jeff Hassler, Ty Ardron, Tito Tebaldi etc, and it's nice to have players who add to the culture and the social side and do the business on the park. If you get that, you're pretty fortunate.
“You've then got the likes of Rhys Webb and Hanno Dirksen hoping to feature before or around Christmas and that's a pretty exciting prospect. We can rebuild our reputation, the way we've rebuilt our squad.”