WALES ACE WEBB FOR TOULON?
TOULON have become the latest club to be linked with a move for Wales and Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb.
The French aristocrats join Saracens as a rumoured destination for the Wales and Lions star, whose national dual contract with the Welsh Rugby Union and the Ospreys expires at the end of the season.
Reports in the French media claim Webb’s preferred option is to join Toulon, but the three-times Champions Cup winners also have an interest in Bordeaux-Begles scrum-half Yann Lesgourgues. But there is little doubt Webb will be afforded his pick of some of European rugby’s biggest hitters when he looks to forge a career away from the Ospreys next term.
“It is too early to be discussing these matters,” said Webb’s representative, Derwyn Jones.
“These things aren’t on Rhys’ radar at this point. His sole focus is to play as well as he can for the Ospreys and, if selected, for Wales in the coming months.
“Nor is it a question of anyone being touted around.
“Every club in Europe is aware of which players are coming out of contract and so who will potentially be available next summer.
“There is also so much for the individual player to consider.
“It’s not as simple as saying: ‘France is a sunny place, the food is nice, the money is good – I’ll go there’. A player has to make a detailed assessment of what’s best for himself, his family and also take into account where he is in his career and exactly what are the advantages and disadvantages of making a move or staying put.”
Webb has had a number of injuries throughout his career, but has reached a point where his stock may never be higher.
But, having made well over 100 appearances for the Ospreys since his debut 10 years ago, it will still be a big wrench for Webb to leave.
THE Ospreys have turned to the craft of James Hook as they look to get their Guinness PRO14 show back on the road against Munster at the Liberty this afternoon.
The 81-cap Wales international made a mark after coming off the bench in the 31-10 loss to Glasgow Warriors last time out.
He replaces Kieran Fonotia in midfield, with Cory Allen moving to outside centre and Hook featuring at No. 12 where his experience can help with the decisionmaking and his creativity can boost the Ospreys in an area where they were a shade lacking in Scotland.
The other change sees Dan Baker come in at No. 8.
Olly Cracknell, who had a big game against Glasgow, misses out after picking up a head knock at Scotstoun.
James King switches back to blindside flank in a back row completed by Justin Tipuric, who stays as captain.
There is also a place on the bench for Dan Lydiate as he starts his comeback after 10 months out with a knee injury.
Dan Biggar also makes a surprise appearance among the replacements, having evidently been brought back up to speed after his exertions with the Lions.
The Ospreys were not wildly unhappy with their effort against the Warriors, believing they matched one of their key rivals in Conference A for long periods.
“Last week in Glasgow we were certainly able to match another good side physically in a contest that was a real arm wrestle for long periods,” said head coach Steve Tandy.
“We set ourselves up well, but we let ourselves down with that lack of accuracy at key moments that meant we lacked the clinical edge that would have given the scoreboard a different look.
“Back in front of our own supporters this weekend it’s important that there’s a positive reaction and we’ve all got a big part to play in that, to ensure we can start to create some real momentum for two weeks on the road before we come back here to face the Scarlets next month.”
But Munster will pose a challenge. They are unbeaten in the league after the opening fortnight having banked two bonus-point victories.
But Tandy’s team have trained well and with the likes of Biggar and Lydiate on a bench that includes six internationals they are slowly returning to strength.
“Munster at the Liberty Stadium is always a huge occasion and this week will be no different,” said Tandy.
“We are really looking forward to Saturday afternoon and testing ourselves against a team that have started really well with back to back home wins in the first two rounds.
“We know what to expect from Munster, in that they’ll be physical, well organised and clinical, and we have to match that.”
Munster welcome back Tyler Bleyendaal at fly-half, with the New Zealander handed the captaincy. Ospreys: D Evans; K Giles, C Allen, J Hook, J Hassler; S Davies, T Habberfield; P James, S Parry, M Fia, B Davies, L Ashley, J King, D Baker, J Tipuric (capt). Reps: S Baldwin, N Smith, R Jones, A Beard, D Lydiate, M Aubrey, D Biggar, K Fonotia. Munster: A Conway: D Sweetnam, C Farrell, J Taute, A Wootton; T Bleyendaal (capt), D Williams; L O’Connor, R Marshall, S Archer, J Kleyn, B Holland, S O’Connor, T O’Donnell, J O’Donoghue. Reps: N Scannell, J Cronin, J Ryan, F Wycherley, R Copeland, J Hart, R Scannell, S Zebo. Referee: Stuart Berry (SA).