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Booth backing young talent to grow with Ospreys

Ospreys head coach Toby Booth

Booth backing young talent to grow with Ospreys

Ospreys head coach Toby Booth believes the fact he has been able to re-sign so many of his younger players is proof enough that the re-set he undertook after COVID is bearing fruit.

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Outside half Luke Scully, prop Garyn Phillips and lock Huw Sutton have recently followed in the footsteps of Hari Deaves, Dan Edwards and Keelan Giles in putting pen to paper on new deals and that is evidence of the improvement that has taken place this season.

Booth takes his side to Edinburgh for a vital BKT United Rugby Championship fixture that could see the Ospreys fly as high as fourth place with a bonus-point win. The Welsh region won’t be getting any of their Welsh Squad members back, Edinburgh have been given eight of the Scottish squad.

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That doesn’t faze Booth and his young side is full of confidence after Dan Edwards won the game at home against Ulster with a last gasp drop goal. That showed their fighting spirit and means they will head north of the border full of confidence.

“They are buying into our programme and that speaks volumes for the programme, the people in it and those delivering it. We feel privileged that they trust us to help develop them into the future,” said Booth.

“They see a pathway and they obviously believe in what we are doing and how we are going about it. The more homegrown players you get, the more of an emotional connection you get between the fans, the players and the organisation.

“I said we would grow our own players and you have seen a number of them play very well in adversity of late. We’ve won the majority of our games this season coming from behind – we are young, fit, committed and we find a way.

Dan Edwards

“That speaks volumes for the depth of the re-set we went through. I came back after COVID and I launched a total re-set from there.

“We’d won two games before I got here and it needed a complete root and branch re-set. From a playing squad that task takes time because you have to unpick contracts.

“There are multiple layers involved in that and that makes it difficult. Then you have to develop a clear identity and style of play.”

The Ospreys have won six of their 10 games to date this season and currently sit in seventh place. Five of those wins have come at home, while they have only won once on the road in four games.

The good thing is that in two of those defeats, at Connacht and Benetton, they managed to leave with a point. They’ve e only failed to take something out of three matches so far this campaign.

“The irony is that the re-set began against Edinburgh away. What we know from our last visit there is that if you aren’t on it right from the start, we will know about it,” said Booth.

“We didn’t get it right last time, but everyone is looking forward to this one. It isn’t a do or die fixture, but we do need to keep on picking up points.

“Things can change very quickly from fourth to 10th in this league, so you can’t afford to get carried away with results in any fixtures. Every point you can pick up is massive and the key for us is to stay in the fight for as long as we can, like we did against Ulster, and then anything can happen.”

Booth has been busy reassembling his squad and is happy with the progress that has been made both on and off the field. The next step is to get a new home for the team that can include all the necessary training and medical facilities on one site.

“That would be transformational. I would agree with Warren Gatland that you need infra-structure and resources, although what that looks like in each region will be different,” added Booth.

“We had to refresh our squad, and we moved to St Helen’s during COVID. That allowed us to refresh stuff at our training base in Llandarcy.

“When we move to a new ground the plan is to have the infra-structure all around that. That will enable us to move to the next level.

“These things cost money, time and a lot of planning, then you have to get the right people to work with the players. I’m delighted to have the calibre of people we have at the Ospreys.

“Simon Church as head of our S&C and Chris Towers head of medical. Both are very experienced and aligned to what high performance looks like.

“From a coaching point of view, it has taken a long time as well. I’ve wanted Mark Jones to be part of our coaching group for a while and now we have him in place.

“With the right structures, the right processes, and the right people, when you put talent into it with the right attitude you normally get a decent outcome. We want to be able to service more people, better.”

With players like former Wales U20 stars James Fender, Dan Edwards, Morgan Morse, Lewis Lloyd, Tom Florence and Iestyn Hopkins coming through the ranks and getting their chance to shine, the Ospreys strength in depth has been greatly enhanced. That is a major success story for Booth.

James Hook starts at inside centre

Ospreys star turned coach, James Hook

“The pathway is headed up by Gareth Walters from an administrative point of view, but the coaching team that works with the Transition Academy includes Andrew Bishop, Paul James, James Hook and Bradley Davies,” said Booth.

“There is a long-term coaching element in that, a connectivity to the Ospreys ethos. Becoming a professional sportsperson is hard, so having people in that area who have been there, committed to it and done it is really important.

“I think we are set-up people wise, but where we still have a way to go is in terms of the the numbers of people we have working in S&C and medical support for the younger age groups. But that’s not just a problem in Wales, it is everywhere.

“The more often you see your younger players, the better they will get. We are producing players, but can we produce more, because as the budgets drop, we will have to produce more of our own.”

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