The Ospreys will make a historic return to St Helens this autumn after the iconic seafront venue was confirmed as one of two Premiership grounds to host the region in Anglo Welsh Cup action this season.
The home of Swansea RFC, scene of so many memorable sporting moments for more than a century, is the venue for the first game of this year’s competition, against Harlequins, on Friday 11th November. The Ospreys will then face Bristol at the Bridgend Ford Brewery Field at the end of January as the region once again hits the road.
The return to St Helens will mark the first time the Ospreys have played at their former joint home since moving to the Liberty Stadium in 2005.
Although the seafront venue has hosted age-grade fixtures and regular training sessions in the 11 years since then, the 23-16 Celtic Cup win over Ulster in in April 2005 was the last time it hosted a senior Ospreys match. Current Head Coach, Steve Tandy, and Managing Director, Andrew Millward, both featured that evening alongside Paul James.
Having kicked off the competition in SA2 on the 11th November (7.35pm KO), the Ospreys then make the short trip up the M4 to face Cardiff Blues the following Friday (18th November, 7.15pm KO).
It is the turn of Bridgend Ravens to play host in Round 3, welcoming Bristol for a 3pm kick-off on Saturday 28th January, the eighth time that the Ravens have hosted a competitive Ospreys fixture since November 2010.
The pool stage of the Anglo Welsh concludes on Sunday 5th February with a second trip of the season to the Ricoh Arena following the Singha Premiership Sevens in August, for a 3.00pm kick-off against Wasps.
Andrew Millward, Managing Director, Ospreys Rugby, said that everybody at the region was delighted to once again be visiting some of their historic community clubs.
“We are really looking forward to playing at some of the fantastic venues in the region” Millward commented.
“Going back to St Helens for the first time since our first title winning season will be a special occasion. It’s been a long time since we last played there but, no doubt, with Swansea back in the Premiership once again, our supporters will be looking forward to enjoying the unique atmosphere of a special venue that has so much history, against a club that is a familiar opponent with their own history and tradition.
“In contrast, the Brewery Field is a stadium we’ve become far more familiar with in recent seasons, enjoying some great matches there in the Anglo Welsh, and this season should be no different. With Bridgend just three stops away from Bristol on the train and the ground so accessible from all corners of the region, a 3pm Saturday afternoon promises to be quite an occasion for everybody.
“We are also putting the finishing touches to our British & Irish Cup plans that will see us spreading the Ospreys word even deeper into the community with even more, familiar old grounds, set to get another taste of regional rugby.”
Stephen Hughes, Chairman, Swansea RFC, added, “Swansea RFC are delighted to have been selected to host the Ospreys versus Harlequins Anglo Welsh fixture. The opportunity allows us to further strengthen our links with the Ospreys, which is also being supported by St Helens hosting the Ospreys Women’s matches.
“We have many players who are part of the Ospreys’ development pathway, and it’s a privilege to be able to host this match and promote the development of young players.
“Harlequins last played at St. Helen’s when we hosted their Heineken Cup fixture vs the Ospreys back in 2004, which saw the Ospreys taking a 24-7 win over the visiting side. As a club, Swansea RFC have played against the Harlequins many times, most recently in 1998 during the famous ‘rebel season’ with a 32-18 win and a team which featured the likes of Colin Charvis, Tony Clement, Garin Jenkins as well as our current backs coach Rhodri Jones. It will be great to welcome the Harlequins back to St Helens, and also to support the Ospreys in a fixture which will be sure to provide an exciting evening of rugby for all.”
Norman Spain of Bridgend Ravens, commented, “We are honoured to once again be able to welcome our region back to the Bridgend Ford Brewery Field. Bridgend is a part of the region with a long and unrivalled track record of player development, something which can be seen even today in the current Ospreys and Wales squads.
“The tradition now established of the Ospreys sharing these games out into the community via the Premiership clubs allows youngsters to get a glimpse of boys like them who have aspired to play regional rugby, at their local club ground, and that can be inspirational. At Bridgend, we’ve enjoyed seeing people like Lloyd Ashley, Scott Baldwin and Tom Habberfield, to name just three, thriving in this competition before establishing themselves at the higher level and we look forward to seeing who will get the opportunity this time.
“We have outstanding facilities which have been enjoyed by Ospreys and visiting supporters on seven previous occasions, with some fantastic matches played here against the likes of Leicester, Sale, Northampton, Wasps and Harlequins. With Bristol being just up the road, we hope that we’ll have another day to remember this time, against a club who have many links to the this region.”
The Anglo-Welsh Cup games against Harlequins and Bristol are included in an Ospreys 2016/17 season membership.