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Ospreys

Ospreys

The summer of 2003 was one of change in Welsh rugby, with the onset of regional rugby.

The game had gone professional shortly before the turn of the century, and Wales was getting left behind. A small playing base was being spread too thinly between the ten top flight clubs, and with both the clubs and the national team struggling to make an impact something radical was needed and regional rugby certainly was radical.

For the 2003/04 season, a new regional entity was created, merging two former giants of the Welsh domestic game, Neath RFC and Swansea RFC. Sworn rivals of old, the merger would never work. Or so they said. Despite the critics, work it did.

In the eight years since the inception of Neath-Swansea Ospreys, as the new team was originally called, the region has grown both geographically and metaphorically and now leads the way in the Welsh game.

After a difficult start to regional life, with the team playing out of two old grounds in Neath and Swansea, silverware came as soon as the end of only the second season when the new entity was crowned Celtic League champions for the first time in 2005.

It was a year that was to prove to be a turning point for the region. Just two months after winning the league title, the region had a new home moving into the Liberty Stadium.

The same summer saw a name change, with Neath-Swansea dropped as they became known simply as the Ospreys. With the region's boundaries now expanded to incorporate Bridgend, the decision to drop the geographic names was seen as a way of embracing the wider communities across 'Ospreylia'.

With the Ospreys now firmly established, the landmarks kept on coming.

The 2006/07 season saw the Ospreys become the first region to defeat a major touring international side when Australia were defeated at a packed Liberty Stadium. This memorable occasion was followed by the Ospreys first ever cup final appearance, a narrow defeat to English giants Leicester Tigers in front of 50,000 at Twickenham in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, before a second Celtic League title was secured by just the one point following a tremendous end of season run-in that saw the Ospreys leapfrog their rivals in the final week.

The growing influence of the Ospreys on international rugby was also visible that season, with the region setting a new record for the number of players from one side being selected for the national team, when Wales coach Warren Gatland named 13 Ospreys in the starting line-up for a game against England as Wales claimed the Six Nations Championship and Grand Slam.

The Ospreys have continued to grow since then, contributing nine players to the British & Irish Lions tour squad for the 2009 South Africa tour.

Domestically they rounded off the 2009/10 season in style, becoming the first ever team to win the Celtic League on three occasions when they went to Dublin to take Leinster's two year unbeaten home record in the first ever Magners League Grand Final. They completed the same feat in the 2011/12 season by beating European champions Leinster in Dublin again with what was Shane Williams’ final appearance for the region.

Recent seasons have seen a period of change for the Ospreys which has resulted in a changing squad. In 2013 the Ospreys contributed 5 players from the region to the victorious Lions tour of Australia including series winning captain Alun Wyn Jones.

The 2013/14 season saw the Ospreys finish as the top try scoring team in the Pro12 league which cemented their position as one the most exciting rugby teams to watch in Europe.

Find out more about the Ospreys by visiting www.ospreysrugby.com

 
 

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liberty-stadium.com - Sun 20 Aug 2017 23:50:15