Ospreys respond to Warren Gatland's decision to snub in-form stars

-Credit: (Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency Ltd)
-Credit: (Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency Ltd)

Ospreys boss Toby Booth insists he will continue to back his players for international honours despite Warren Gatland's reluctance to select in-form forwards Morgan Morris and Nicky Smith.

The Ospreys have been by far Wales' strongest professional side this season and face Munster in the United Rugby Championship quarter-finals on Friday. Destructive scrummaging loosehead Smith and dynamic ball carrying No 8 Morris have been among the most consistent performers in Welsh rugby but are not rated as highly by the Wales management.

When asked about their omissions in a press conference this week Gatland made reference to big games the Ospreys had lost by heavy margins away to the Bulls in Pretoria and Leinster in Dublin. Booth is quick to point out how well these players performed in other big games against the likes of the Stormers in Cape Town, which the Ospreys won.

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"We know that regional rugby and international rugby is different," said Booth. "Only the people that are picking the respective squads for particular games and campaigns know what they are looking for.

"It suggests the fact that what Morgan Morris has, they already have in their squad. We know what we need to keep working on. The likes of Morgan Morris, James Ratti and Nicky Smith, who will go to Leicester next season, are all adamant they want to fulfil their potential and play at the highest level.

"It is a setback but we will keep going as we have done before. We will promote our players and I will always defend them.

"You have seen performances against high-class opposition which has been good and it suggests people who are in front of them have delivered that sort of performance." The Ospreys only had six players selected for Gatland's squad for summer Tests against South Africa and Australia despite their results being head and shoulder above the other regions.

Booth insists the representation would have been higher if it wasn't for injuries to the likes of Adam Beard, Rhys Davies, George North and Alex Cuthbert. "If our injury list wasn't what it is we would have significantly more," he said.

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"They know what they want. Those people that have been picked must have delivered what they want in the areas they want it and we can't control that.

"We are going to Munster this week to play against a very strong team with high Irish representation who are current champions and number one in the league.

"We are looking to see how those individuals and all the others, ae going to play against the very best and that's a good gauge for it as was pointed out by others.

"We played against the Stormers and Ulster when they were at full-strength. It is easy to cherry pick certain bits and pieces but there is other comparable stuff as well.

"It is Warren's choice and we are respectful of that and ultimately the people in front of them must have done what he wants them to do.” But Booth was delighted with the selection of wing Keelan Giles who he believes is a special athlete.

"We are delighted for him and the work he has been through," he said. "It's a good reflection how the team has played our game has expanded from an attacking side because he is on the scoresheet a lot.

"He has great ability to beat people one-on-one so is a special athlete in that respect."