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Ospreys vs Leinster Rugby
Guinness Pro12 Round 16
Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Friday, 27th February 2015, 19:35

Television: TG4/BBC Wales

So Leinster responded to their shock home defeat to the Dragons with a bonus point win at home to Zebre. And, taken as bare facts, for some people that will mean all things are now well with the world. However the memory of the first half will haunt the fans as it was bad beyond belief. It wasn't just the usual rubbish Leinster fans have grown glumly accustomed to, it was sitting-in-a-dark-room-hugging-yourself bad.

Leinster started a backline which had accumulated well over 200 international caps between them, yet they couldn't execute even a basic attacking move without knocking the ball on or throwing it away. The pack weren't a whole lot better and at times they were shown up by the bottom side in the league in terms of basic execution. Indeed, the Zebre try was quite warmly received by the home crowd if only because it reminded them of what could be achieved by good passing and intelligent support running.

Leinster finally got their act together in the second half but they left it to injury time before they finally got their fourth try. Even then, they had to thank Zebre's bad run of luck which saw them lose both their out-halves and several other players to injury. By the end they had a limping winger playing in the pack but to their credit they still kept fighting to try to deny Leinster a bonus point.

So the win takes Leinster back into the top four ahead of the Ospreys, who lost narrowly away to Glasgow. Now the two teams face each other on a busy weekend when most people will be paying more attention to the Ireland-England match. Even the under-20s and the women's game are directly scheduled against this match. However it could well be a crucial fixture for both teams in how their season turns out.

The Ospreys had a fantastic start to their league campaign winning their first seven games on the trot. Their form has faltered since the new year though and they've now lost three out of their last four games in the league. They've a lengthy injury list and they're also missing 13 players to international duty so their team has a lot of unfamiliar names. However Dan Evans, Hanno Dirksen and Josh Matavesi are dangerous runners out wide and Sam Davies and Martin Roberts are a useful half-back pairing.

Ryan Bevington, Tyler Ardron and Dan Baker are solid forwards too and it's interesting to see second row James King named at openside. It's not the most star-studded team, but the Ospreys will approach the game with confidence anyway as they nearly always perform well against Leinster.

Leinster have made seven changes to the team that started last week, mostly in the pack. There are two changes in the backline with Dave Kearney and Isaac Boss replacing Luke Fitzgerald and Eoin Reddan who may both be named in the Ireland squad tomorrow. In the pack, Richardt Strauss and Tadhg Furlong come in to start in the front row while Tom Denton is fit to partner Kane Douglas in the second row. Rhys Ruddock is recovered from his broken arm so he is able to start in an exciting looking back row with Josh Van Der Flier at openside and Jack Conan continuing at number eight.

On paper the Leinster team looks a lot stronger but it's very hard to be confident in any Leinster side these days. They might get something out of the game, but you wouldn't be too surprised if the Ospreys did a number on them again.

Team Lineups

Ospreys

Leinster Rugby
Teams Dan Evans 15 Zane Kirchner
Tom Grabham 14 Fergus McFadden
Jonathan Spratt 13 Ben Te'o
Josh Matavesi 12 Gordon D'Arcy
Hanno Dirksen 11 Dave Kearney
Sam Davies 10 Jimmy Gopperth
Martin Roberts 9 Isaac Boss (c)

Ryan Bevington 1 Michael Bent
Scott Otten 2 Richardt Strauss
Dmitri Arhip 3 Tadhg Furlong
Tevita Cavubati 4 Tom Denton
Tyler Ardron (C) 5 Kane Douglas
Joe Bearman6 Rhys Ruddock
James King 7 Josh Van Der Flier
Dan Baker8 Jack Conan

Replacements Matthew Dwyer 16 Aaron Dundon
Marc Thomas 17 Peter Dooley
Daniel Suter 18 Royce Burke-Flynn
Rhodri Hughes 19 Ben Marshall
Olly Cracknell 20
Dominic Ryan
Morgan Allen 21 Luke McGrath
Tom Habberfield 22 Noel Reid
Richard Fussell 23 Darragh Fanning

Not Considered
due to Injury
Ashley Beck,
Rynier Bernardo,
Andrew Bishop,
Cai Griffiths,
Jeff Hassler,
Dafydd Howells,
Ben John,
Ross Jones,
Sam Parry,
Lloyd Peers,
Nicky Smith,
de Kock Steenkamp,
Eli Walker

Edward Byrne,
Kevin McLaughlin,
Jamie Heaslip,
Shane Jennings
Officials Referee: John Lacey (IRFU),
Assistant Referees: Craig Evans, Chris Williams (both WRU),
Citing Commissioner: Gwyn Bowden (WRU),
TMO: Derek Bevan (WRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2015-02-26

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