Grand Slam “Euphoria” rubbing off on Holah

Marty Holah hopes the Neath-Swansea Ospreys will be able to maintain the sense of euphoria being felt in Welsh rugby following the national side’s Six Nations Grand Slam when they face Saracens in the semi-finals of the Anglo-Welsh Cup on Saturday.

Former New Zealand flanker Holah will line-up alongside 11 members of the Grand Slam-winning squad at the Millennium Stadium where, on March 15, Wales beat France to seal their second Six Nations Championship and clean sweep in four seasons.

Saturday’s match has been given added spice by the knowledge that the Ospreys and their English rivals will go head-to-head again on April 6 in the quarter-finals of the European Cup.

Holah, who has played an important role in what the Ospreys hope will be a run to a second successive Anglo-Welsh final, said: “The Grand Slam euphoria has rubbed off a bit on me – it’s been hard to get away from it the last couple of weekends.

“The great thing about the Welsh team and the Welsh people is that they are so passionate about rugby, and I have been carried away about that over the last couple of weeks.

“I am really looking forward to Saturday’s game, not only because I haven’t played for a while – which is something I’m not used to during a season – but because of the occasion as well.

“I have played at the Millennium Stadium before, and it is a pretty outstanding place to play rugby.

“I think the environment there is enjoyable, but the other thing is that the Ospreys are desperate for success and I can feel that hunger, having played for them this year.”

Such is the Ospreys’ strength in depth, they have left former All Blacks scrum-half Justin Marshall on the bench and rested Wales lock Ian Gough.

And even without injured Scotland wing Nikki Walker, the Ospreys will still be fielding 14 internationals.

Saracens supremo Alan Gaffney has made changes from the side beaten by Premiership rivals Leicester last weekend.

Francisco Leonelli earns a call-up in midfield alongside former England centre Andy Farrell, while Dan Scarbrough switches to the wing and there are also starts for hooker Fabio Ongaro and flanker Don Barrell.

“It has been 10 years since this club placed a trophy in the cabinet, and Saturday’s match represents a great opportunity for this current group of Saracens players to make a cup final,” said Gaffney.

“It is the start of what promises to be two very close battles between the two teams,” the Australian added.

“The Ospreys are a very good side, and they will have been given a boost by Wales’ Six Nations success.

“I think some clubs still underestimate just how good a side they are, but I can promise you we won’t be one of them.”

Leicester, the reigning Anglo-Welsh Cup holders, face Wasps in Saturday’s other Millennium semi-final with the two leading clubs in England set for yet another bruising encounter.

Sapa-AFP –   

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