With the Pro12 to the fore again over the next fortnight, Ospreys wing Tommy Bowe believes the Irish double header with Connacht and Munster will provide a great opportunity for some of the young talent at the region.
Currently top of the league table with just the one defeat in eight Pro12 fixtures to date, the Ospreys face Connacht in Galway on Saturday evening before Munster are the visitors at the Liberty Stadium a week later.
According to Bowe, the players at the region are champing at the bit to get back into action after last weekend's draw in Treviso.
"It's a huge couple of weeks again for us really" said the Ireland wing. "Obviously we were disappointed with the draw in Treviso, but we can't dwell on it because we've got another tough run of games coming up, starting with Connacht away this Saturday. The Sportsground is always a very difficult place to play.
"We've lost a few of our Welsh guys again but that gives a great opportunity for some of the other guys to come back into the team and really put their stamp on it and help us to cement our place at the top of the league over the next two weeks," he added.
The absence of seven players on international duty with Wales, plus a number of ongoing injury concerns, means that like at the start of the season when the World Cup was on, the line-up will have a youthful look to it, and Bowe reckons that will be a positive for everyone.
He said: "It's a great chance for them and anyone who's an Osprey should be excited about it. Some of the guys who had the chance back in September have remained in and around the team after everyone came back from the World Cup and they've done very well, so it's another great opportunity for someone to put their hands up.
"It's going to be a very difficult couple of weeks up against two good teams who offer different challenges, but this group of players know what's required and we'll be looking at these next two weeks as a real opportunity for us build on the excellent results and got us off to a flier in the Pro12 earlier in the season," he explained.
The Ospreys have already played, and beaten, the two Irish provinces this season, recording a narrow 26-21 win over Connacht at the end of September before ending Munster's 18-month unbeaten home record the following week with a hard-fought 17-13 victory at Thomond Park.
Those two games were played during the World Cup period, and although only Welsh internationals will be absent this next two weeks, Bowe says that the Ospreys will know exactly what to expect.
"I would have guessed that Connacht wouldn't have been missing too many players when we played them earlier in the season so it's maybe a little bit unfair to suggest that was the case. It was a good win against Connacht at the Liberty in September.
"Certainly Munster, when they come to the Liberty next week off the back of a good two weeks for them in Europe, they'll be coming full of confidence and I'd say with a strong squad looking to take advantage of an opportunity to play us without the Wales boys," said Bowe.
The big wing is positive that his team can finish this crucial period on top of the table as long as they pull together.
He said: "The Liberty is a tough place to come. We don't lose many home games, especially when there's a big crowd there, but we know that Munster will believe they can win the game so we'll have to be at our best.
"It's a busy time of the season, with big Heineken Cup and Pro12 games going into Christmas and we need to front up over the next two weeks, everybody in it for the cause together, to ensure we stay up the top ahead of the Welsh derbies," added Bowe.
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