Hooker Dewi Lake says the tension is building ahead of this season’s Heineken Champions Cup as he looks to help Ospreys do Wales proud in EPCR’s leading competition.
Ospreys are the solitary Welsh region in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup, with Cardiff Rugby, Scarlets and Dragons competing in the EPCR Challenge Cup.
Speaking at this week’s season launch, Lake admitted that there was a sense of the competition’s magnitude and prestige as players from all 24 clubs attended the event.
“Definitely, it is starting to build,” he said. “You can feel some sort of air around where we are today.
“Everyone’s representing their team and everyone’s going to say the same thing about wanting to win and wanting to compete.
“It’s almost like you shake hands, you smile, but at the same time you’re thinking, you can’t give too much away, we might play against you.
“You see all the branding that’s going round and stuff and you sort of look at it and think, it’d be nice to stand in front of that in the final in Dublin and lift the cup.”
“It’s obviously the biggest club competition in world rugby, and it’s the best of the best competing for a spot in the final and taking the cup home.
“It’s a big, big tournament that’s been won by some big teams in the past and I think its history is something that follows it when you’ve got to compete for it.”
🦅 @ospreys are up against both the French and English champions in the pool stage…
Could we see an upset? 👀#HeinekenChampionsCup season preview ➡️ https://t.co/DtZZ8iEteB pic.twitter.com/BASKoKhiBe
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) November 30, 2022
Ospreys endured a difficult Heineken Champions Cup campaign in 2021/22, finishing bottom of Pool A, but Lake says they been working tirelessly to improve and be more competitive this season.
“I think it is a little bit of both [pressure and pride],” he explained. “It’s something we played for last year, to be the Welsh team that qualified for this.
“It’s also a big part of Ospreys’ history and the past teams that have done well in this competition, and well for the Ospreys, and I think we’re looking to get that back.
“I think as much with the Ospreys, we’re representing the whole of Wales in this in this competition this season.
Ospreys host last season’s Gallagher Premiership winners Leicester Tigers in their Pool B opener on December 11, before travelling to TOP 14 champions Montpellier Hérault Rugby on December 17.
“Looking forward to playing against French champions and the English champion as well, they’ll be big tests for us,” Lake added. “Hopefully we can make the Welsh nation proud.
“Every game is like a cup final in this competition. It’s something that we worked on for last year and it’s been a big focus now for us this year.
“And across the four games – more of a 320-minue performance to really put anything in that’s going to matter in terms of how the table looks at the end of those four games.
“Obviously this year we’re hoping we can be better than last year.”