As the nation prepares for the 2013 Six Nations, which gets underway this weekend when Wales entertain Ireland at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday lunchtime, figures revealed today show that the Ospreys continue to lead the way in terms of contribution to the senior national team.
The latest stats show that to the end of the autumn international series, where Wales played four games against Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia, more caps have been handed out by the WRU to players wearing the Ospreys shirt than from any other region, with 34 per cent of all caps going to Liberty Stadium based players – over a third of all caps issued to date.
Since the inception of regional rugby a total of 2417 caps have been dished out, 825 of them going to Ospreys players. Next on the list is Cardiff Blues with 600 caps (25 per cent), the Scarlets with 461 (19 per cent) and the Dragons with 259 (11 per cent).
Behind them come the combined total for English clubs (122/5 per cent), while Overseas and Celtic Warriors from 03/04 account for the final 150 caps (6 per cent) between them.
Reflecting on the figures as he looked ahead to the forthcoming Six Nations, Chief Operations Officer Andrew Hore said that everybody involved with rugby in the region could take great pride from the statistics.
“Almost 10 years into regional rugby, to be able to say that over one third of all caps issued have gone to Ospreys players is an incredible achievement for the organisation” he commented.
“It reflects positively on everyone involved on the development pathway. To represent your country is the ultimate goal of any young boy when he first picks up a rugby ball, and everyone of our players who have gone onto achieve that goal began their playing days at their local community club. It was where they fell in love with rugby.
“When you look at the boys who are currently in the Wales squad and see people like Adam Jones and Richard Hibbard among the senior players, side by side with the next generation of Ospreylian caps like Justin Tipuric, Dan Biggar, and the latest boys to receive a call-up, James King and Eli Walker, everyone involved on that pathway can take immense pride. Officials at the boys home clubs, the likes of Trebanos, Gorseinon or Abercrave, people who worked with them at age-grade, or young boys in their local community just starting off themselves can all look at these players and identify with them, recognising that they truly represent the diverse communities of Ospreylia.
“Add in the senior players like Alun Wyn Jones and Ashley Beck who are out injured currently, or the seven young Ospreys players who have been selected for the U20s on Friday evening, and you can see how strong our development pathway is as the next generation are already starting to come through.”
According to Hore, there is no reason to believe that the figures will change much moving forward given the Ospreys ongoing commitment to development.
“Development from within is at the very heart of everything we do as an organisation” he emphasised.
“We’ve increased investment in that area year on year and are seeing the rewards, and it is all credit to the directors for their vision in seeing this as the way forward for the Ospreys. Look at the young players who have come to the fore this season for the region and you will recognise a development system that is thriving.
“It’s essential, given the way the market is going in rugby, with Welsh regions funded centrally at a lower level than in England, Ireland, Scotland or France, that we remain ahead of the game in terms of development. For us to deliver sustainable success, we need to know where our priorities lie, and we’ve seen over the last twelve months that by doing so we are able to reap the rewards.
“We are justifiably proud to be able to say that a third of all Wales caps have gone to Ospreys players. The challenge now is to maintain that record, and ensure that rugby clubs and communities across Ospreylia can continue to see more local boys coming through the system to represent the region, and the country, than at any other region.”