The Ospreys (Welsh: Y Gweilch), formerly the Neath-Swansea Ospreys (Gweilch Tawe-Nedd), are a rugby union team from Wales, playing in the Celtic League, EDF Energy Cup and the Heineken Cup/European Challenge Cup. At the start of the 2005-2006 season, they dropped Neath and Swansea from their name to become simply the Ospreys, although the company is still Neath-Swansea Ospreys.
The Ospreys strip is made up mainly black, grey and white and is currently manufactured by Kooga. The strip's primary sponsor is npower renewables, with secondary sponsorship including ASDA, eteach, Pinetree, Worthington's, John West Foods Ltd, Trade Centre Wales and Cardiff Doors. The Ospreys jersey is currently the second most popular by sales figures throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, behind Munster.
The Ospreys are one of the five original clubs of the Welsh Regional Rugby Era. The club came into being in the summer of 2003 when the WRU controversially elected to reduce the current top tier of Welsh professional rugby from nine clubs into five regions, attempting to mirror the successful formats in Ireland and the Southern Hemisphere countries of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
The Ospreys represent the whole of the Neath and Swansea areas in western Glamorgan, including areas of the Upper Swansea Valley, also encompassing Port Talbot and Aberavon. They were initially created as a partnership between the area's two most successful clubs - Neath RFC and Swansea RFC - who still retain ownership of the club on a 50:50 basis.
In the summer of 2004, due to the liquidation of the Celtic Warriors region, Neath-Swansea Ospreys had their borders extended to cover much of the Bridgend and Ogmore areas to the east. However, for logistical reasons, it was decided that no "home" games would be played at Bridgend RFC's Brewery Field.
After initial teething problems, which were inevitable given the storied historical rivalry between the two clubs, the Ospreys have settled down and claim to be Wales' 'one true region' thanks to the demise of the Celtic Warriors. Presented with initially one of the weaker squads (especially in depth) they performed admirably in their first year, earning by right a place in the 2004/05 European Rugby Cup. In 2004/5 they won the Celtic League.
In April 2006, it was announced that noted former New Zealand All Blacks scrum half Justin Marshall had signed to play for Ospreys. When it became apparent that Australia would not be able to face Wales 'A' midweek during their November tour, the Ospreys became the first Welsh region to play a major international side since regional rugby was introduced, a match they won 24-16.
The term Ospreylia has been adopted by the region and its supporters as a description of the geographical area covered by the region, with supporters known as Ospreylians. Peter Black, Assembly Member for south west Wales has declared himself as AM for Ospreylia on his own blog (27 October 2006)
On the 23rd February 2007, the Ospreys played their first 'A' team match, against Newport-Gwent Dragons 'A' at Bridgend, which was the first 'A' match fixture for any of the Welsh regional sides. They lost the match 22-10.
They since went on to play Worcester 'A' in April, a game which they lost 24-23 to an injury-time penalty.
In their first two seasons, the Ospreys shared their home games between Swansea's St Helens ground (home of Swansea RFC) and Neath's The Gnoll ground (home of Neath RFC). For their third season, 2005-2006, they moved to the newly-developed Liberty Stadium in Landore which seats over 20,000, double the St Helens capacity. They have sold this stadium out against an international side (Australia, 1 November 2006) and against local rivals the Llanelli Scarlets.