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Ospreys vs Leinster Rugby
Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Friday, 23rd November 2007, 19:10

TV: Setanta Sports 2, BBC 2 Wales

After the high of the home win over Leicester, Leinster came crashing down to earth with a thumping defeat last Sunday in Toulouse.  Though the glut of injuries to key men was a factor, it was still a desperately disappointing performance.  The tactical advances seemingly made in the Leicester match disappeared into thin air as the Leinster backs reverted to the good old "run it from anywhere and everywhere" plan.  It's hard to recall a Leinster backline knocking on so much ball in one match.  The failure to prevent Toulouse scoring a bonus point was the final indignity.

Leinster now find themselves in a tough position to qualify, but despite the doom and gloom after the result, they're far from out of it.  However they'll probably have to secure ten points from the double-header against Edinburgh.  Before that though they two tough away trips in the Magners League.  Next week it's Munster in Cork but first up it's the Ospreys in Swansea tomorrow night.

Tipped by some pundits as potential winners of the Heineken Cup this season, the Ospreys will not be thrilled by their start to their campaign either.  They beat Bourgoin in their first match but crucially failed to score a bonus point.  Then last week they lost a close match away to Gloucester but fell agonisingly short of a losing bonus point losing 26-18.  Like Leinster, they're still not out of it, but will be looking to take maximum points against struggling Ulster in their double-header in December.

The form of the current Magners League champions has been mixed so far and they lie sixth in the table.  Normally they'd be hoping to restart their campaign against Leinster, but they've been greatly diminished by the withdrawal of several players to play for Wales against South Africa on Saturday.  The Welsh have long since moaned about Ireland's failure to take the Magners League seriously so it's ironic that they've arranged a meaningless test that strips their clubs of their best players for this weekend's fixtures.

The international absentees, plus a number of injuries, mean that the Ospreys name a greatly changed team from the one that lost to Gloucester.  In the back-line only Scottish winger Nikki Walker remains.  Gareth Owen starts at full-back and the powerful Aled Brew completes the back three.  Andrew Bishop and the experienced Mark Taylor form the midfield partnership.  Shaun Connor and Martin Roberts are the half-backs.

In the pack captain Filo Tiatia remains and forms a powerful back-row with fellow All-Black Marty Holah and Tongan Hale T-Pole.  Prop Adam Jones is the only remainder from last week in the front five.  Paul James comes in at loose head and Richard Hibbard starts at hooker.  Lyndon Bateman and Andy Lloyd are the second rows.

Leinster are also greatly changed from last week due to injuries and rotation.  Gordon D'Arcy was initially named in the team but was quickly withdrawn.  Felipe Contepomi drops back to inside centre to partner Brian O'Driscoll.  Rob Kearney moves to full-back for the injured Girvan Dempsey and Luke Fitzgerald comes in for him on the left wing.  Jonny Sexton starts at ten with Cillian Willis continuing to fill in for the injured Chris Whitaker.

The six changes in the pack (one positional) are more due to rotating tired players than injury.  Ollie Le Roux, Bernard Jackman, Malcolm O'Kelly, Shane Jennings and Jamie Heaslip are all rested.  Stanley Wright switches to loose head and Juan Gomez starts at tight head.  Brian Blaney starts his first game of the season at hooker.  Young Devin Toner gets another chance to impress in the second row alongside Leo Cullen.  Cameron Jowitt and Kevin McLaughlin slot into the backrow.

Because of all the changes on both sides, it's an extremely tough game to call.  Leinster still have a lot of quality in the backs but a lot will depend on how the young half-backs settle.  The Ospreys are a bit of a mish-match but have some real quality in the back-row and in the three-quarter line.  It's no easy match but hopefully Leinster can put the smile back on Leinster fans tomorrow evening.

Team Lineups
  Ospreys vs Leinster Rugby
Teams Gareth Owen 15 Rob Kearney
Nikki Walker 14 Shane Horgan
Mark Taylor 13 Brian O'Driscoll (C)
Andrew Bishop 12 Felipe Contepomi
Aled Brew 11 Luke Fitzgerald
Shaun Connor 10 Jonathan Sexton
Martin Roberts 9 Cillian Willis
Paul James 1 Stanley Wright
Richard Hibbard 2 Brian Blaney
Adam Jones 3 Juan Francisco Gomez
Andy Lloyd 4 Leo Cullen
Lyndon Bateman 5 Devin Toner
Hale T-Pole 6 Cameron Jowitt
Marty Holah 7 Keith Gleeson
Filo Tiatia (C) 8 Kevin McLaughlin
Replacements Ed Shervington 16 Bernard Jackman
Andrew Millward 17 Cian Healy / Ollie Le Roux
Mike Powell 18 Malcolm O'Kelly
Tom Smith 19 Shane Jennings
Rhodri Wells 20 Chris Keane
Ashley Beck 21 Christian Warner
Jonathan Vaughton 22 Gary Brown
Not Considered
due to Injury
    Gordon D'Arcy,
Girvan Dempsey,
Trevor Hogan,
Stephen Keogh,
Stephen Knoop,
Ronnie McCormack,
Fergus McFadden,
Chris Whitaker

Referee: Andy Macpherson (SRU),
Sub Referee: Tim Hayes (WRU),
Touch Judge: Matthew Alpin (WRU),
TMO: Tony Rowlands (WRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2007-11-22