We will have to wait until the new year to see whether Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke made the right decision when sending a much-changed outfit to Irish Independent Park for their clash with Munster on Friday night.
On paper and when the two matchday 23s were put side to side, many expected a comprehensive win for the men in red. And that’s what transpired.
Munster ran in seven tries, four in the first half and three in the second half to run out comprehensive 49-13 winners in front of a packed crowd in Cork.
After the match, Clarke spoke to the media and he defended his decision to rotate his squad and he is clearly looking at the bigger picture with 18 rounds of PRO14 action still left to go in the season.
“We’ve got our performance targets as a club and don’t get me wrong, I didn’t come here to throw a game, we didn’t come here to throw a game, I didn’t come here to concede 49 points, nor did i expect to but that’s the reality of what happened tonight,” Clarke said honestly after the match.
Clarke has to contend with player management protocols similar to what currently occur in Ireland, hence why the likes of Justin Tipuric, Alun Wyn Jones and George North were not on display at the Cork venue on Friday night.
However, he believes the experience gained by those young and fringe players will benefit his squad going forward after they suffered their first defeat of the season.
“I’m not going to persecute the players for that. It’s on me and as head coach, what I believe is best for the team.
“It’s about the season and we have to get enough wins throughout the season while managing our player group without having two squads within the squad if you like, that’s not what we’re about.
“Tomorrow our A team is playing and then we’re going to have a bit of an event together afterwards. We want to come in and challenge for places, to do that you got to give people opportunities. The boys are disappointed, there’s no denying that but like I said, we’re not going to get hijacked by the scoreboard. I’m not judging them on that. Our effort was excellent, our execution wasn’t good enough.”
It’s been a decent start to the season for the Ospreys, they recorded opening wins over Edinburgh and the Cheetahs before suffering the loss to Munster on Friday night.
Next up for them is a home clash with Benetton, a fixture they will likely target but Clarke reiterates the lessons learned in Cork will be valuable for the season ahead.
“We said it beforehand, we wouldn’t allow the scoreboard to hijack us, we need to grow our depth and the only way to grow your depth is through playing and that experience of coming to tough places like Munster.
“Now it’s about showing the resolve to see if we can kick on [and to show that] when we come here again and some individuals come here again or if we play together later in the season as a group when a lot of our front liners are with Wales, that we deliver.”