Rhys Webb: Returning Ospreys and Wales scrum-half looks for home comforts


Rhys Webb made his Ospreys debut in 2007 before the first game of his second stint with the region against Dragons in August 2020
Rhys Webb made his original Ospreys debut in 2007 and faced Dragons in August 2020 on his return
Venue: Rodney Parade, Newport Date: Sun, 30 Aug Kick-off: 17:00 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary; as live on S4C from 21:00 BST

Returning Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb has admitted he missed the buzz of playing for Wales during his international exile of more than two years.

A move to French side Toulon in 2018 made him ineligible for Wales, but a return in 2020 saw him welcomed back into the Test fold for the Six Nations.

“At the beginning I thought I wouldn’t miss it, but that first game back, running out at the Principality Stadium in front of 72,000 fans, it hit home straight away,” said Webb.

“I knew I just wanted more and more.”

He should get that wish. Wales coach Wayne Pivac would have endured conflicting emotions last weekend when weighing up his scrum-half conundrum following the first round of regional rugby games in more than five months.

Pivac would have first been concerned with rival nines Gareth Davies and Tomos Williams both leaving the field during Scarlets’ 32-12 victory against Dragons.

Williams has to have surgery and will be sidelined for four months with a shoulder injury that rules him out of the 2020 internationals, but Davies’ sore backside seems less serious.

A day later Pivac would have taken solace in Webb’s controlling performance in his first game of his second Ospreys spell.

Webb played a pivotal role in the 20-20 draw with Dragons, as 14-man Ospreys managed to avoid defeat despite wing George North’s early red card.

The 31-year-old scrum-half left Ospreys in 2018 to join the French giants and ruling him out of Wales contention in the process because of the Welsh Rugby Union’s selection rules.

But with his family unable to settle in the south of France and returning to Wales last year, Webb announced in December 2019 he would be rejoining Ospreys in the summer of 2020 after Toulon agreed to release him from the final year of his contract “for family reasons”.

So Webb was available for Wales during the 2020 Six Nations and came on as a replacement against Italy and England.

Rhys Webb has won 33 caps for Wales and played two Tests for the British and Irish Lions during the drawn series with New Zealand in 2017
Rhys Webb has won 33 caps for Wales and played two Tests for the British and Irish Lions during the drawn series with New Zealand in 2017

Webb was then named in Wales’ starting team to face Scotland on 14 March but that match was postponed as the coronavirus pandemic started to take hold.

So Webb’s progress was halted, although he remains in contention to be Wales’ first choice number nine again when the 2020 international programme continues.

His immediate thoughts are for his rival and team-mate.

“I am very disappointed for Tomos,” said Webb.

“It’s professional sport and these things happen, but personally I am gutted for him because he has been in good form over the last couple of months.

“Nobody likes to see a player injured and it looks a particularly nasty one. Personally I wish him all the best recovery and no doubt he will come back stronger.”

Webb is more focused on impressing for Ospreys with the 2019-20 season finishing this weekend against Cardiff Blues, before the new campaign starts again in October.

“Looking ahead, I don’t know what is happening around the corner and with Wales. I just know we have Cardiff Blues on Sunday and that is where my head is,” said Webb.

“It all starts with your club or region and playing well for them.

“It was just great to be back in an Ospreys shirt and at the Liberty Stadium, it felt special.

“We were disappointed there weren’t any fans there, because we would have liked to have put in that strong performance in front of our supporters.

“It was nice to be back and playing good rugby, which is pleasing for me.

“It never felt as if I had been away and I enjoyed it. It was disappointing not to win but we move on.

“For the next 12 months I just want to play the best I can for the Ospreys. That’s all I can concentrate on.

“I don’t try to look too far ahead on what’s coming because I don’t know personally myself.”

Webb was aided by having former England fly-half Stephen Myler outside him, with the 36-year-old kicking 10 points on his Ospreys debut after being brought in as cover for the injured Gareth Anscombe and Luke Price.

“It was great to have that experience outside me,” said Webb.

“He is going to be brilliant for this team and point them in the right direction.

“He is loud and vocal, just what the forwards and me want to hear. He is a top-class performer and he showed that on the weekend. It is just great to have him at the Ospreys.”

Experienced half-backs is the key for Ospreys and Webb still has one big career to goal to fulfil.

Because while a place on a second British and Irish Lions tour in South Africa next year is on the agenda, Webb has never played in a World Cup.

Injured for the 2015 tournament in England and ineligible for the Japan competition four years ago, would the 2023 edition in France be on Webb’s radar?

“Why wouldn’t it be?” he declared.

“I’m still beating some of the young nines in the Tests and still feel good personally.

“My skill set is there and I’m a competitive person. I’m not one to take a backward step. It’s a long way away, but I feel like I’m in a good place, mentally and physically.

“I’m always going to be one to keep up the hard work. So hopefully, yes, I’m going to put my hand up, but who knows?”

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