Welsh sides finally cop on but let's just accept Ospreys are sending a weakened team to Cork 4 years ago

Welsh sides finally cop on but let's just accept Ospreys are sending a weakened team to Cork

George North, Alun Wyn Jones, Scott Williams, Dan Lydiate, Rob McCusker, Justin Tipuric.

Six top talents. None of them playing against Munster this weekend.

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Welcome to a new era of the Guinness PRO14 but don't lose hope just yet.

Munster have named a matchday squad with 11 Ireland internationals for the visit of Ospreys to Musgrave Park. Ospreys coach Allen Clarke has, in return, gone with a severely weakened, needs-must team. As a result, Munster are 50/1 ON to get a victory and the spread is 25 points. Anyone who fancies ospreys to get a win can get them at 16/1.

Seven lads aged 22 and under are in the Ospreys squad  - Morgan Morris (19), Adam Beard (22), Matthew Aubrey (21), Alex Jeffries (23), Ifan Phillips (22), Joe Thomas (22), Tom Williams (22). These are the young men that teams like Ospreys, Scarlets, Dragons and Cardiff will become increasingly dependent on in the coming seasons.

Leinster used 55 players last season and, as PRO14 and Champions Cup winners, are the standard-bearers for those around them. It will not be easy to replicate their success but teams are now aware that their squads need to be DEEEEEEEPPP. Forgive the spelling, but it helps drive home the point.

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After naming his weakened, travelling squad for the Munster game, Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke commented:

"Squad management is important but so too is player opportunity. Selection represents what weve observed throughout pre-season and provides individuals an opportunity to be tested against a quality team.

"The players coming in have earned our trust and the right to wear the shirt; they fully understand the level of performance expected of them on Friday night. As a club its important for us to show progress and grow collectively, recognising the tests ahead and the demands of the season schedule."

All of us were looking forward to seeing the likes of Tipuric and North on the new 4G pitch down in Cork. Of seeing them taking on the likes of Peter O'Mahony, Andrew Conway, Tadhg Beirne, Joey Carbery & Co.

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Instead, we are getting mismatches all over the park and Munster will be wanting to put these Ospreys lads to the sword, even if it is the first start of the season for many of their troop.

This is the way of it now. The Welsh Rugby Union have finally copped onto the central contracting premise that has seen Irish rugby flourish over the past decade. North, Ross Moriarty, Leigh Halfpenny and Jonathan Davies, among others, were all lured back and centrally contracted but you will now start to see less and less of them.

Last season, Rob Kearney played 12 times for Leinster but only five were in the PRO14. James Ryan played 15 times in his breakthrough season, including six times in the league. For Johnny Sexton, five of his 12 appearances were in the PRO14. Sexton, Kearney and Ryan. Five, six, six.

The Welsh sides are now likely to feed them back in for regional derbies, Champions Cup fixtures and big home games. The days of sending lads off to Zebre, Edinburgh and off to Cork for a Friday night will become rare as sightings of Brian O'Driscoll in Wales used to be.

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This is a bad thing for the league, of course it is, but it could lead to better days and greater competition, and rivalry, within the league.

Look, for example, at how well Leinster have done at preparing the next generation to be ready when their chance comes. Leo Cullen copped some grief, last December, for putting out a team without Kearney, Sexton, Cian Healy, Scott Fardy and more for the festive inter-pro clash with Munster. By the end of the season, three young men that started at Thomond Park - James Ryan, Dan Leavy and Jordan Larmour - were all being raved about.

This is a period a major change for the league but the advent of eir Sport and Premier Sports as dedicated broadcasters if a major positive. The league is getting a bit of spotlight and proper discussion, before and after games as well as midweek. Matches are now being shown in the USA, as well as South Africa, and advertisers are streaming in.

The 14 sides involved should recognise the shifting tides and the new normal. It is up to them to raise the profile of these new players. Get them out on the pitches but let them tell their stories and show their personalities too.

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With any luck, next season and the one after that, we'll be moaning about how Munster could be so foolish as to leave Sam Arnold or Darren O'Shea out.

Over in Wales, they may be banging the tables and asking where the hell young Morris or Aubrey.

The superstars will still be there but this is also a time for upstarts and giantkillers. And James Hook. He'll go on forever!