Ospreys to back players after Wales omissions

Morgan Morris and Nicky Smith together in action for Ospreys
Morgan Morris (left) and Nicky Smith have been awarded player-of-the-match awards in Ospreys' last two victories, Morris against Dragons and Smith against Cardiff [Huw Evans Picture Agency]

Ospreys head coach Toby Booth says he will continue to promote his players after Morgan Morris and Nicky Smith were again left out of the Wales squad by Warren Gatland.

Uncapped number eight Morris, Leicester-bound prop Smith and flanker James Ratti have played integral roles in Ospreys reaching the United Rugby Championship (URC) play-offs, in which they travel to face Munster on Friday night.

But international recognition has again eluded them, with head coach Gatland overlooking the trio for this summer's trip to Australia.

"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 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.

"It suggests what Morgan has, they already have in their squad. They know what they want. Those people that have been picked must have delivered in the areas they want and we can't control that."

Booth says his players will continue trying to impress and that Ospreys know what they "need to keep working on".

"The likes of Morgan, James and Nicky are adamant they want to fulfil their potential and play at the highest level," he added.

"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."

Dealing with disappointment

Booth says the Wales omissions have been addressed with his squad, both individually and collectively.

"We talk about it privately to individuals and we try to seek feedback," said Booth.

"We have had these conversations in team meetings about how we support people when they need our help.

"We are a tight-knit group that look after each other. If it is positive or negative, we deal with that and it's what keeps this group together."

Gatland suggested he was judging Ospreys' players in part on performances in heavy defeats suffered against Bulls and Leinster, when they conceded 60 points in successive weeks last month.

Booth pointed out that Ospreys overcame Stormers and Ulster "when they were at full strength".

"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," said Booth.

"We are looking to see how those individuals you name, and others, are going to play against the best. That's a good gauge, as was pointed out by others.

"You have seen our performances against high-class opposition, which have been good and suggest people who are in front of [the Ospreys players with Wales] have delivered those sort of performances.

"It is easy to cherry-pick certain bits and pieces, but there is other comparable stuff as well."

Giles among six of Ospreys' best

Keelan Giles in possession for Ospreys against Cardiff
Keelan Giles was nominated for BBC's Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2016 [Huw Evans Picture Agency]

Ospreys only have six players in the Wales squad despite winning 14 games this season, more than the three other Welsh professional sides combined.

Gatland has selected nine Cardiff players with six from Scarlets and five Dragons.

"If our injury list wasn't what it is we would have significantly more," said Booth, who has Wales internationals Alex Cuthbert, George North, Adam Beard and Rhys Davies missing.

One Ospreys player who has been picked is uncapped wing Keelan Giles, who has been handed an international squad recall.

Giles, now 26, burst on to the scene as an 18-year-old, when he was involved in senior squads for Wales' summer tour of New Zealand in 2016 and the autumn internationals later that year.

Giles was not capped and has since suffered a series of serious injuries, but has scored nine tries in 17 games this season.

"We are delighted for him after what he has been through," said Booth.

"It's a good reflection how the team has played and how our attacking game has expanded 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."