THE Ospreys are confident of making a Heineken Cup-quality signing “within days” after welcoming back a familiar face to the Liberty.
Cai Griffiths has returned on loan from London Irish until the end of the season and will go straight into the side that faces the Blues in tomorrow evening’s Pro12 encounter in Swansea.
But with the 28-year-old North Walian cup-tied in Europe after playing for the Exiles in the Amlin Challenge earlier in the campaign, the Ospreys still have a void to fill in their front row, with Aaron Jarvis, Adam Jones and Joe Rees all sidelined by injuries.
The situation is desperate, not least because Steve Tandy’s side are in Toulouse in the Heineken Cup a week on Saturday and would not want to go there with an inexperienced prop.
Andy Lloyd, rugby operations manager at the region, confirmed that the Ospreys were closing in on a signing for Europe.
He said: “We are very close to competing a deal for an experienced tight-head to slot into our ERC squad on his arrival.
“To lose our three main tight-heads to long-term injuries at the same time is unprecedented, and while Adam is pencilled in to return early in the new year, we expect to lose him again for the Six Nations.
“With Joe and Aaron out for the entire season that leaves us bare in a crucial position.
“When you factor in that we are likely to also be contributing two tight-heads to Wales Under-20s for a couple of months as well, then the need for cover in that position becomes critical.”
An Ospreys original back in 2003, Griffiths made 115 appearances for the region spread over nine years before moving to the Madejski Stadium in the summer. He has played six times for London Irish, including three outings in the Aviva Premiership.
Lloyd added: “While Cai is ineligible for us in the Heineken Cup, he will have a big part to play over the remainder of our Pro12 campaign, particularly during the international period.
“He will provide experienced cover in a key position, one where we have been stripped of all our senior options, and importantly he is already familiar with the Ospreys way having been a loyal servant for nine years previously.”
Sides are allowed to bring in two replacements for Europe, provided one of them plays in the front row.
Moldovan Dimitri Arhip will fill one of the spots, with the Ospreys confident of securing another signing within the next few days.