Ospreys a major threat in Tigers' fight for survival
It should be one of the premium games of the Heineken Cup pool stage: Leicester, two-time champions desperate to revisit past glories, against Ospreys, dangerous underachievers who have an unerring knack of getting on the midlanders' nerves.
Tomorrow's rumble at Welford Road has a different feel about it, however: with both sides going public over financial concerns this week, there will be as much talk of filthy lucre as there is about the big tight-head battle between Dan Cole of England and Adam Jones of Wales.
In advance of this weekend's Welsh Rugby Union AGM in Port Talbot, one of Ospreys' non-executive directors has been painting a very bleak picture of future prospects for the regional game west of the Severn. "We're looking down the barrel of a gun," warned Mike Cuddy, a familiar figure down Swansea way. "Who wants the Welsh football scenario to be replicated in Welsh rugby, where having an international player ply his trade inside the Principality is the exception rather than the rule -- where the top tier of domestic competition is so far removed from international level that it attracts only a few hundred supporters?
"Where will we be in, say, five years? It's all well and good the governing body making big profits, but what will it profit them if there is no professional rugby in Wales worthy of the name outside the international tier?"
Yesterday, Leicester reported a "disappointing outcome" -- their phrase -- in publishing a financial report for 2011-12. Turnover fell by more than £2m and the operating loss ran into seven figures.
They will feel the pinch even more if they fail to see off a strong Ospreys outfit, armed with an all-international pack featuring players as capable as Alun-Wyn Jones, Ian Evans and the hot-shot flanker Justin Tipuric.
By drawing a blank in Toulouse last weekend, Leicester are already behind the game. Nothing less than a win, while also denying the Welshmen so much as a losing bonus point, will suffice.
(© Independent News Service)
Leicester v Ospreys
Live, Sky Sports 2, tomorrow, 3.0