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Page last updated at 18:05 GMT, Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Ospreys open to Wales full-back Lee Byrne bids

Lee Byrne
Lee Byrne played rugby league and rugby union as a young player

Scott Johnson admits the Ospreys would be open to offers from clubs wanting to sign their Wales full-back Lee Byrne.

The 30-year-old, whose Ospreys contract runs to the summer of 2012, has been tipped to follow team-mate James Hook in a possible big-money move to France.

Asked if the Ospreys would be prepared to let British and Irish Lions star Byrne leave, coaching director Johnson admitted: "We'd have to look at it.

"We don't get him for the large part of next year anyway with the World Cup."

Byrne would not only be absent from the Ospreys in September and October due to his Rugby World Cup commitments for Wales, he would also be away from the Welsh region during the Six Nations.

Hook revealed he was to leave the Magners League champions in November after the Wales centre was offered an 'unprecedented' deal by big-money French clubs.

And Byrne, a Welsh Grand Slam winner in 2008, has been widely tipped to join Hook in France in the summer.

But he insisted to BBC Sport: "No decision has been made on my future yet, I just want to play the season with the Ospreys and my focus is mainly on the Ospreys."

The 2009 Lions tourist, who joined the Ospreys from close rivals Llanelli Scarlets in 2006, signed a new four-year contract at the Liberty Stadium in 2008.

But Byrne, who is set to win his 39th Welsh cap against England in their Six Nations opener on 4 February, could be the next to leave the star-studded Welsh region following Hook and Gavin Henson.

We're big on developing young kids and now is a good time to see what is on the shop floor over the next couple of weeks

Ospreys director of coaching Scott Johnson

Byrne has played just nine games for Ospreys this season - including five starts - because he has suffered hand and thumb fractures.

And since his Lions tour to world champions South Africa, the Bridgend-born player has struggled to recapture his best form.

And Johnson's admission on Byrne's possible departure comes just days after head coach Sean Holley questioned the Ospreys' strategy of signing such a large number of international players in the wake of their exit from the Heineken Cup.

Holley, speaking after their shock 24-12 defeat at London Irish on Sunday, bemoaned the effect losing "large chunks of players for large chunks of the season" has on their "momentum."

Now Johnson concedes the Ospreys would listen to bids for Byrne and possibly be the third international in six months to leave the Liberty Stadium.

"It is not a crossroads for us," insisted Johnson, after his region failed to qualify for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals for the first time in four years.

"We have to adjust ourselves to market forces. To lose the quality of those players is difficult to take but the reality is, it happens to all.

"We've got to be confident that we're producing enough here and we must start to look at our recruitment on the basis of the need of where we are taking the business forward.

"It is a very aggressive market out there. We're big on developing young kids and now is a good time to see what is on the shop floor over the next couple of weeks."

The experienced Barry Davies has worn the number 15 shirt in Byrne's absence and the Ospreys will look at more potential full-back cover when Byrne is away on Wales duty in the Six Nations.

Gareth Owen has been tipped as a potential star of the future and he may get a bigger chance in the forthcoming Magners League and LV=Cup fixtures when the Six Nations Championships is on.

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see also
Holley calls for Ospreys' rethink
17 Jan 11 |  Welsh
Ospreys suffer Byrne injury blow
08 Dec 10 |  Ospreys
Hook offered 'unprecedented' deal
15 Nov 10 |  Ospreys
Ospreys & Byrne in 16th man blow
29 Jan 10 |  Rugby Union
Injured Byrne out of Lions tour
25 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
Byrne signs new Ospreys contract
27 Feb 08 |  Ospreys
Ospreys recruit Byrne and Selley
30 Apr 06 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
Heineken Cup
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
RaboDirect Pro12
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
Anglo-Welsh Cup
11 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union

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