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Ospreys coach sees 'green shoots' despite winless European campaign

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Ospreys forwards coach Carl Hogg admitted it had been another difficult day for the Welsh region who had just two early penalty goals from fly-half Luke Price to show in their loss to Munster.

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Munster recovered from falling six points behind in a scrappy first half of this dead-rubber Pool 4 game, hitting back with 33 unanswered points, including a brace of tries from CJ Stander and one each from Stephen Archer, man-of-the-match Conor Murray and 20-year-old replacement scrum-half Craig Casey.

Ospreys finished their six pool games without a win.

“I thought there were long times during the game we were in the arm wrestle, especially that first half,” said Hogg. “Munster clearly dominated possession, they dominated territory, but we had some really good defensive sets for long periods of time.

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“I am immensely proud of the level of resistance within the group, the way they fought. Ultimately we gave away a load of tries in that first half and, as I said, they dominated territory and possession. It took its toll, especially in that last 20 to 30 minutes.”

Hogg said a combination of having so many players away at the Rugby World Cup in Japan and their lengthy injury list was always going to make the Champions Cup a difficult prospect for the Swansea-based outfit.

He added: “There is no doubt that it has been a difficult campaign. The boys clearly did magnificently well at the tail-end of last year to get European qualification and it has been well documented – obviously having players away at the Rugby World Cup and our injury list was always going to make playing in the Champions Cup very difficult and very challenging and so it has proved.

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“But there are some green shoots. I see lots of positive elements in our performance today and last week at home against Saracens, so we have to hold onto these positives.

“We have a natural break in the season now, players will get some time off which I think is absolutely critical the way our season has gone – go away, have a mental as well as a physical break and come back for the tail end of the season. We have four months and we have to make sure we put pride back in the jersey.”

Munster head coach Johann Van Graan was happy to see his side sign off on their Heineken Champions Cup campaign with a 33-6 bonus-point win over struggling Ospreys at Thomond Park.

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Results in other fixtures on Saturday had ended Munster’s hopes of qualifying for the last eight as a best runner-up. It is the first time in four years that the two-time European champions have failed to reach the quarter-final stage.

Giving his reaction afterwards, Van Graan said: “I’m very happy with the win. We conceded a few penalties, I thought tactically we played really well today, finished our opportunities – really happy to go from 6-0 down to 33-6 up.

“I’m specifically happy for our supporters who came out today, it was brilliant to finish off like this. We’re obviously disappointed that we did not progress to the next part of this competition.

“I’m not sure of what happened in all the other games, but I think we are a point or two short. If you look at the first five rounds we had one or two opportunities within our control which we didn’t use. That’s professional sport, it’s literally moments.”

The South African added: “I’m really proud of how the group stuck to their guns the last few weeks, specifically Peter (O’Mahony) and the leadership group. We are a tight bunch, we win together and lose together. Unfortunately, we came up short this time, we will definitely be back next season.”

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Shaylen 2 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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J
Jon 8 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

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