Pro12: Coach Steve Tandy hails Ospreys strength in depth
Coach Steve Tandy believes the quality of the non-Test players in the Ospreys squad will hold the key to his side's defence of their Pro12 title.
The Ospreys coach, who took over midway through last season, saw his side crowned Pro12 champions.
"When we flip back and look at last year, the key to our success of winning the Rabodirect Pro12 was our non-international players," Tandy said.
The Ospreys beat Leinster 31-30 in Dublin in last season's play-off final.
The Ospreys have become masters of the end of season plays-offs and won two of the last three finals.
Tandy, who succeeded coaches Scott Johnson and Sean Holley at the Liberty Stadium in February, has hailed the strength in depth of the Ospreys squad.
He believes the Ospreys laid the foundations of their title success while their Test stars were away on international duty during the 2011 World Cup and Wales' 2012 Grand Slam campaign.
Tandy paid tribute to his experienced squad players and a batch of talented youngsters who went on to establish themselves in a new-look Ospreys line-up.
"They were really up to speed and we got a lot of victories around then and it's something we have to be positive about," said Tandy.
"We are going to have some indifferent form when you blood youngsters, but it's key to their learning.
"We may have to be patient but we still have a lot of experience within our group and when we do lose our internationals we still have a lot of experience."
Tandy saw flanker Justin Tipuric and centre Ashley Beck, who emerged as key players for the Ospreys, make their Wales debuts last season.
The former Ospreys flanker, who coached Bridgend RFC in the Welsh Premiership, hopes he will uncover similar talents during the forthcoming campaign, which begins for them away at Italian side Treviso on Friday.
"Fingers crossed we will be talking about the next Justin Tipuric, Ashley Beck and James Kings of this world," said Tandy.
"We didn't know about these guys last year and they are internationals and hopefully we are talking about three or four more like that."
The Ospreys lost a batch of experienced international players in the summer, including Shane Williams, who is playing for the Mitsubishi Dynaboars in Japan, and prop Paul James who has signed for Bath, while hooker Huw Bennett moved to Lyon in France.
Wings Tommy Bowe and Nikki Walker, and centre Sonny Parker have all left for pastures new, while centre Jonathan Spratt returns to the Ospreys from London Irish.