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Ospreys vs Leinster Rugby
Liberty Stadium
Friday, 5 March 2009, 19:10

TV: Live Setanta Ireland, BBC 2 Wales

It's another week off from the tension of Ireland's Grand Slam campaign, but there'll be no respite for Leinster.  Like two weeks ago, they have a trip to Wales and once again it's a vital match in their quest to win back to back Magners League championships.  Victory will put them ahead of the second placed Ospreys and will put them top of the table (if only for twenty fours hours with Munster playing the Dragons on Saturday).  It's quite a position for Leinster to be in, considering their chances were widely written off after they lost to Glasgow back in October.  However they still have to do the business this weekend to capitalise on their recent winning streak.

The Ospreys are having a fine season to date.  They're well in contention in the league and have secured a Heineken Cup quarter-final away to Munster.  That said, it's certainly the best time to play them as their massive contribution to the Welsh squad combined with injuries mean they're missing eighteen players.  Hence, they've named a somewhat unfamiliar team, with a mish-mash of quality internationals, hardy journeymen and bright young things.  That said, Leinster can ill afford any complacency, as they faced a similarly under-strength team last season but still had to sweat over a 26-19 win.

Paul James once again captains the team in the absence of Ryan Jones and he makes up a tough front row with Cai Griffiths and Ed Shevington.  Samoan captain Filipo Levi was recently signed to cover for the injuries in the second row and he added some much needed physicality to the front five in the win against Connacht.  He partners the experienced Andy Lloyd in the second row and there's more international quality in Kiwi backrows Filo Tiatia and Marty Holah who along with Tom Smith complete the pack.

In the backs, former Waikato Chief James Nutbrown and the promising youngster Dan Biggar form the halfback combination.  There's a big, powerful international centre combination in Andrew Bishop and Sonny Parker, two players who will command considerable respect from the Leinster defence.  The experienced winger Jonny Vaughton makes up the back three with youngsters Kristian Phillips and Gareth Owen.

For Leinster the side that started against Llanelli is given a massive vote of confidence with the return of hooker Bernard Jackman for Brian Blaney the only change.  Shane Jennings once again captains the side from open-side and Cameron Jowitt holds off the challenge of fit again Sean O'Brien who's on the bench.  In the backs Paul O'Donohue is retained at scrum-half, just reward for his fine debut against the Scarlets.  The fit again Chris Whitaker has to be content with a bench spot.  Fergus McFadden gets another start after a fine match too alongside Gordon D'Arcy who'll once again be looking to convince Declan Kidney that he's ready to start again in Ireland's midfield.

Leinster have the stronger side on paper but we've seen in the past that this often counts for nothing.  However after breaking the try drought against the Scarlets, it looks like a side that could be very dangerous with quick ball.  It will be tougher than people may expect, but Leinster should have enough to earn a vital win.

Team Lineups
  Ospreys  Leinster Rugby
Teams Gareth Owen
15 Girvan Dempsey
Jonny Vaughton
14 Shane Horgan
Sonny Parker
13 Fergus McFadden
Andrew Bishop
12 Gordon D'Arcy
Kristian Phillips
11 Isa Nacewa
Dan Biggar
10 Felipe Contepomi
Jamie Nutbrown
9 Paul O'Donohue
Paul James (C)
1 Cian Healy
Ed Shervington
2 Bernard Jackman
Cai Griffiths
3 Stan Wright
Filipo Levi
4 Trevor Hogan
Andy Lloyd
5 Malcolm O'Kelly
Tom Smith
6 Cameron Jowitt
Marty Holah
7 Shane Jennings (C)
Filo Tiatia
8 Rocky Elsom
Replacements Marc Breeze
16Brian Blaney
Craig Mitchell
17Stephen Knoop
Rory Pitman
18Devin Toner
Steve Tandy
19Sean O'Brien
Rhodri Wells
20Chris Whitaker
Jonathan Spratt
21Jonathan Sexton
David Bishop
22Simon Keogh
Not Considered
due to Injury
Richard Hibbard (ankle)
Nikki Walker (hamstring)
Ben Lewis (knee)
Duncan Jones (foot)
Ian Evans (knee)
Lyndon Bateman (knee)
  Leo Cullen (shoulder)
Chris Keane (knee)
CJ van der Linde (toe)
Ronan McCormack (neck)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2009-03-06