Ospreys coach rips down posters from walls during half-time rant at players

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A new documentary is airing behind-the-scenes footage at the Ospreys and Scarlets’ academies

A behind-the-scenes look into life as young rugby stars in the making chasing their pro rugby dreams shows the reality of at two Welsh rugby U18s’ set-ups: the Ospreys and Scarlets.

In a new BBC documentary, Ruck Stars, both U18s academies bid to be crowned the best team in Wales over a short, sharp season where opportunities to impress are limited and the stakes are high, and so is the pressure.

One scene in the first episode shows Ospreys U18s head coach Chris ‘Swanky’ Davies ripping down team posters at half-time in the changing room in front of players, crumpling them up and discarding them on the floor. Trailing Cardiff 5-13 at the break, the Ospreys hadn’t long given away a penalty and their defence cracked to allow a Cardiff try.

With the room sat in silence, Davies walks around and removes a number of posters and even asks a player to do so himself – all in a bid to inspire a second-half resurgence.

“That’s s*it, that can go. Energy, respect the process, that’s all s*it,” he said while taking the posters down.

“What are we doing? There’s no energy. We look good in training but right now when it means something against a different jersey and not your own teammates you’re struggling. It’s that simple.”

Captain Cori Lewis-Jenkins said: “When Swanky came in at half-time and started ripping the posters down, it was kind of expected. He set a gameplan out with the other coaches and we didn’t follow it at all. We needed that at half-time to keep us on track and for the same thing not to happen at full-time.”

Ospreys went on to lose the game, not answering Cardiff in the second half at all with a final score of 18-5.

Davies told his players post-match: “You’re the best players at your level in this region. You’re supposed to be, right? But now I’m starting to question. Maybe there are better people out there.”

In the first squad meeting, shown early on in the episode, he tells his new recruits: “Everyone in this room is different, but I’m looking for the people who are most likely going to put that effort in for the team.”

Meanwhile, in Scarlets U18s training three days before facing RGC, Scarlets centre and U18s attack coach Steff Hughes steps in with his direct approach.

“Boys, boys, boys, do we know what we’re doing here or not? ‘Cos I’ll walk through it if you need it. We’re going up to RGC on the weekend, it’s the first chance to play for the Scarlets U18s this year and we’re f***ing about not knowing what we’re doing here. It’s unacceptable. Get your house in order, run the plays properly and we move forward.” Improvement prompted praise, with Hughes adding: “Spot on, brilliant, really good.”

One Scarlets youngster said of the telling off: “When the coaches are giving us a row or telling us something we’ve done wrong, I think it’s good and it feels like you want to prove something the next time.”

Skip to match day in north Wales, and pressure from RGC leads to a few more harsh words from Hughes.

“Our workrate’s nowhere near good enough,” he tells his players on the field. “There’s three blokes here marking one f***ing player there, that’s how they’re getting easy outs on us. Work f***ing harder off the ball and it’ll be easier when we’ve got it.”

RGC went on to win to the match, with the north Walians, Ospreys, Scarlets, Dragons and Cardiff all facing each other once in the tournament.

It’s all part and parcel of the bid to make it as a professional rugby player and earn a potentially life-changing playing contract.

“Hundreds want to get in the academy but only 30 end up making the squad,” one Scarlets player tells the TV cameras. “If it goes well for you in the season, you can end up playing pro and also representing Wales and playing for your country.

“Everybody wants to become the next Welsh rugby hero, earn the big bucks, everyone asking you for your autograph.”

All five episodes of Ruck Stars are available now via BBC iPlayer.

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