Jones eyes cup quarter-finals
Wales star Ryan Jones accepts that this season's Heineken Cup draw could have been kinder to the Ospreys.
But despite being grouped with two heavyweights of the European game in Toulouse and Leicester, Jones also has no doubt the Ospreys hold realistic quarter-final ambitions.
The Welsh side will help launch this season's tournament when they host Italians Treviso on Friday night.
Eight days later, the Ospreys visit Leicester before facing back-to-back home and away appointments with Toulouse in December.
It is a much different-looking Ospreys team these days from the one that first emerged as genuine Heineken Cup contenders.
No longer do they have proven match-winners like Shane Williams, Mike Phillips, James Hook or Tommy Bowe in their ranks, while three successive RaboDirect PRO12 defeats at the start of this season hinted at a long and potentially painful season ahead.
But three league wins on the bounce, including victories over fellow Heineken Cup sides Munster and the Scarlets, suggest momentum is building towards Europe.
Former Wales captain Jones has been part of three Six Nations Grand Slams, four league titles with the Ospreys and an Anglo-Welsh Cup triumph, but previous Heineken Cup missions have either ended at the quarter-final stage or sooner.
"We are really looking forward to this tournament and looking to lay a marker down," he said. "Is is something I believe we are capable of.
"From the players' point of view, the expectation is still sky-high. We are highly competitive, and you always look forward to pitting yourself against the best teams in Europe."
Toulouse and Leicester have won six European titles between them, which underlines the degree of difficulty facing Jones and company to progress from arguably this season's toughest pool.
"We have really got our work cut out, but I believe we are capable of doing it," he added.
"It is about getting out there and getting it done. You will certainly know after the second round of games who is firing and who is not.
"You only realise where you are as a team when the final whistle goes. It's going to come down to key fixtures.
"We talked years ago about winning your home games, and then maybe getting a win away from home, and that would be sufficient to qualify for the quarter-finals.
"But it is not like that now. You have got to win them all now really, which when you are away to Toulouse and Leicester becomes a very, very tough challenge."
Treviso, though, are first up, and they will arrive at the Liberty Stadium after defeating the Ospreys this term and beating last season's Heineken semi-finalists Edinburgh away from home on their last league outing.
"The benefit of this pool is that any one team is capable of beating another, so it's going to be extremely tight," Treviso boss Franco Smith said.
"It is undoubtedly another difficult pool for us, but once again we don't have that much to lose.
"We want to be the first Italian club in the history of the tournament to qualify for the knockout stages, and it is all about creating belief among the players.
"We've beaten some top sides at home and we've played some good rugby away from home, and now we have got to stop feeling sorry for ourselves.
"Italian players have caught up technically and physically over the past three years, and now we need to focus more on the mental aspect. We don't want to be dominated in any way this season.
"We will be striving more to play rugby on our terms, and we have to be defensively stronger. There is no way we will be giving away four tries in every game."