LV= Cup preview: Ospreys v Saracens
After a try-scoring debut for Saracens in the LV= Cup last weekend, Mike Ellery admits he is relishing the chance to keep testing his newfound skills on the wing against Ospreys on Friday.
The former England 7s star returned to the 15-a-side game over the summer, joining the Aviva Premiership Rugby outfit as a winger despite having previously played at No.8 for Championship side Moseley.
Despite a steep learning curve in his new position, the 25-year-old took his first opportunity for the senior side with aplomb as he touched down to help Saracens defeat Harlequins 25-20 on Sunday.
The London club face another stern test in round two as they face an Ospreys side who have won seven from seven in the Pro12 this season.
But Ellery is confident he can help Saracens secure back-to-back victories, even if he spots some familiar faces among the home supporters at the Gnoll.
“My dad is from Swansea and he supports them so growing up I went to watch a few games down there when it was actually Swansea instead of Ospreys,” he said.
“I’ve got grandparents there who I haven’t seen for a while so it’ll be good to be involved in that match but I hope my dad won’t be cheering them on against Sarries.
“The LV= Cup is a big competition and a good opportunity for people like me who are coming over into the team to try and make a name for ourselves.
“I want to use this opportunity to keep showing that I’m getting to grips with playing on the wing and it’s a test for me to see how I’m doing.
“Hopefully I’ll keep nailing down my basics so the coaches can have a bit more trust in me to put me in the first team.”
While looking to add to his try tally, Ellery will also find his defensive capabilities tested by Ospreys, who have averaged three tries per game in the Pro12 this season.
In the absence of Welsh international Rhys Webb, Ospreys scrum-half Tom Habberfield is confident he can inspire his side’s backline, but insists the forwards will need to set the platform against a much-vaunted Saracens pack.
After playing a considerable role in Ospreys’ Pro12 campaign last year, 22-year-old Habberfield has fallen further down the pecking order with the arrival of Martin Roberts from Bath Rugby.
But with the LV= Cup giving squad players a chance to impress, Habberfield admits Friday’s clash with Saracens has arrived at a perfect time.
“The LV= Cup means big opportunities for some of the younger boys in the squad and we have a lot of talent here,” he said.
“If the forwards can match them at the set-piece, I’m confident the backs can finish them off.
“We’ve got a tough group with a young side, so each game is almost like a cup final for a lot of the boys with a chance to impress.
“With Rhys Webb playing so well I have a lot to live up to, but I’m up for the challenge. It’s been disappointing not playing so far this year, but I’m excited about the weekend.
“I know it’s my opportunity and it’s about proving a point, to put a few thoughts in the coaches mind over the next few weeks.”
For your definitive guide to the LV= Cup click here
Be part of the rugby family at the LV= Cup Final at Franklin's Gardens, Northampton on Sunday 22 March. Visit www.northamptonsaints.co.uk for tickets