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Leinster Rugby vs Ospreys
Heineken Cup, Pool 1, Match 6
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Friday, 17th January 2014, 20:00

Television: Live - Sky Sports 2, Highlights TG4 23:20

As predicted here, last week's game turned out to be a tight, grind of a match dominated by penalty kicks and tight defence.

Eh no, wait, hang on...

In my defence, who could have seen that crazy rollercoaster of a match coming?

Leinster had a horrendous start to the match, going 14-0 down, missing tackles by the boatload as Castres played with a style and intent most of their fans would have found unrecognisable. At times Leinster rode their luck to hang on in there, but they did and in the second half they came roaring back into the match greatly helped by a surprise appearance from the bench from Cian Healy.

With the early kick-off on Sunday afternoon many fans would have missed the late change in the teamsheet and probably only realised Healy had come on when he made one of his typically barnstorming runs. His intervention for the game-winning try was crucial as was Rob Kearney's opportunistic drop goal. Jimmy Gopperth made some mistakes, especially in defence, but you had to admire the way he backed himself for his two first half tries that prevented Castres from running away with it.

So it means that Leinster have won all their away pool matches for the first time since the 2004/05 season. However the defeat to Northampton in the Aviva means there is still work to be done to secure qualification and a home quarter-final is a highly unlikely prospect. They need one point from tomorrow's match at the RDS and they take on a team in bottom place in the pool with only one win from five. They have nothing to play for as they can't even qualify for the Amlin. They're also missing almost their entire first-choice backline due to injury. In normal circumstances Leinster would be looking forward to a stitched-on home win with a four-try bonus point.

They're only one problem.

It's the bloody Ospreys.

Most teams fear coming to the RDS but the Ospreys actually look forward to it. And why wouldn't they, when they've only lost twice in their last six visits. They have won three times (including two Grand Final wins) and they drew a match earlier this season when Leinster had built a commanding lead at the start of the match. The Ospreys just like playing Leinster and it would cheer them up no end to screw up the home side's plans once again with an unlikely win.

Despite all their injury problems the Ospreys are still able to name a pretty formidable team, especially in the pack where they include six Lions in an all-international eight. Welsh international Ryan Bevington forms a front row with Richard Hibbard and Adam Jones. Skipper Alun Wyn Jones and Ian Evans are the second row and Canadian international Tyler Ardron, Justin Tipuric and Ryan Jones make up the starting back row.

The backs are certainly more diminished but they still have top class half-backs in internationals Rhys Webb and especially Dan Biggar, a man who's done untold damage to Leinster with his boot down the years. The rest of the backline has a more unfamiliar look with exciting prospect Sam Davies named at full back and Jeff Hassler and Fijian international Aisea Natoga named on the wing. Jonathan Spratt and Ben John are in the centres. With all their strength from numbers 1-10, Ospreys will look to play a fairly tight game.

After Cian Healy's Lazarus like recovery last week there's even more good news for Leinster in that hooker Richardt Strauss is fit to return months ahead of schedule after undergoing heart surgery earlier in the season. He is named on the bench in the squad that shows four changes to the team that started last week. The backline is unchanged with all the changes coming in the pack. Healy and Martin Moore come in at prop for Jack McGrath and Mike Ross respectively. In the back row Rhys Ruddock and Shane Jennings come in for Kevin McLaughlin and Jordi Murphy. Murphy is on a bench that is packed with players who can make an impact.

Leinster only need one point but they certainly won't want to limp into the quarter-final on the back of two home defeats. However they need to be patient and get the win first before thinking of bonus points because the Ospreys, especially with that pack, will give them nothing easily.

As good as Leinster's away form has been in the pool, the two home performances have actually been pretty poor so in their last Heineken Cup game at the RDS (under the current format anyway), let's hope Leinster sign off with a powerful and dominant performance.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Ospreys
Teams Rob Kearney
15 Sam Davies
Dave Kearney
14 Jeff Hassler
Brian O'Driscoll
13 Jonathan Spratt
Gordon D'Arcy
12 Ben John
Luke Fitzgerald
11 Aisea Natoga
Jimmy Gopperth 10 Dan Biggar
Eoin Reddan
9 Rhys Webb

Cian Healy
1 Ryan Bevington
Sean Cronin
2 Richard Hibbard
Martin Moore
3 Adam Jones
Devin Toner
4 Alun Wyn Jones (C)
Mike McCarthy
5 Ian Evans
Rhys Ruddock
6 Tyler Ardron
Shane Jennings 7 Justin Tipuric
Jamie Heaslip (C)
8 Ryan Jones

Replacements Richardt Strauss 16 Scott Baldwin
Jack McGrath 17 Marc Thomas
Mike Ross 18 Dan Suter
Leo Cullen
19 Lloyd Peers
Jordi Murphy
20
James King
Isaac Boss
21 Morgan Allen
Ian Madigan 22 Tom Habberfield
Zane Kirchner
23 Matthew Morgan

Not Considered
due to Injury
Sean O'Brien,
Conor Gilsenan,
Dan Leavy,
Andrew Goodman,
Fergus McFadden

Dmitri Arhip,
Ashley Beck,
Joe Bearman,
Andrew Bishop,
Hanno Dirksen,
Richard Fussell,
Tom Isaacs,
Aaron Jarvis,
Sam Lewis,
Tom Smith,
Tito Tebaldi,
Eli Walker
Officials Referee: Romain Poite (FFR)
Assistant Referees: Cyril Lafon, Eric Soulan (FFR),
4th Official: John Carvill (IRFU),
TMO: Laurent Valin (FFR),
Citing Commissioner: Tony Lanaway (RFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2014-02-13

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