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Leinster Rugby vs Ospreys
Guinness Pro12 Round 9
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Saturday, 29th November 2014, 17:15

Television: Live - Sky Sports 2

After three weeks of positivity watching a Joe Schmidt coached Ireland team, it was back down to brutal reality on Sunday watching the Matt O'Connor coached Leinster team put in a truly inept performance in Treviso. They took on a largely thrown together team which had one miserable point to their names from seven games this season. Frankly they were lucky to escape with a draw which they only got because of some remarkable misses from the Treviso place-kicker.

Leinster had named a very strong team but they kept undermining themselves with basic mistakes and it was extremely frustrating to watch. Leinster left with three points but five were there for the taking and Leinster are still three points outside the top four and just a point ahead of Connacht. So Leinster will need to get their act together tomorrow against league leaders Ospreys.

The Ospreys had enjoyed a fantastic start to the season winning their first seven games in a row before finally coming a cropper last weekend away to Ulster. Admittedly most of their seven wins had come against the leagues' weaker teams, with the win away to Munster the big exception. They now have a tough run of fixtures which will see them take on Ulster again next week before facing bitter local rivals the Scarlets in a double header over the Christmas holidays.

But first they must take on Leinster and they have to do without their internationals who will be playing against South Africa earlier in the day. But before Leinster fans get too confident about this fact, it must be pointed out that Leinster are also still without several internationals who are rested after their recent exertions like Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Jamie Heaslip and Rob Kearney. Rhys Ruddock and Gordon D'Arcy are available but are only named on the bench.

Matt O'Connor is able to bring in Ian Madigan at least, but unfortunately he's not playing at ten, as Jimmy Gopperth is bizarrely retained after yet another horror show performance last week. Even with two inside centres in Noel Reid and D'Arcy on the bench, O'Connor has hitched his wagon to Gopperth and he must be seen as "undroppable" at this stage no matter how poorly he plays.

There is some good news at least in the return from injury of Fergus McFadden and Mike McCarthy. McFadden will play in the centre with Madigan, which means the back three is unchanged from last week. Eoin Reddan starts at scrum-half and will captain the side. In the pack Bryan Byrne gets a deserved first start at hooker after impressing off the bench several times this season. The final change sees Dominic Ryan come into the team at blindside flanker and alongside Jordi Murphy and Jack Conan, they certainly won't be short of ball carriers.

They'll need them against an Ospreys team who always play well at the RDS, no matter what the strength of the squad. Even with the missing internationals and a lengthy injury list they still have a decent team with Aisea Natoga, Andrew Bishop and Hanno Dirksen danger-men in the backs and Joe Bearman and Sam Lewis useful and aggressive back rows. A lot will depend on how the very promising Sam Davies and the experienced Martin Roberts combine at half-back.

Leinster should have the beating of them with the team they've named but as last week showed, it's becoming increasingly hard to believe in this Leinster team anymore. They need to show the RDS their true quality and boost morale ahead of next week's trip to Harlequins.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Teams Zane Kirchner 15 Dan Evans
Darragh Fanning 14 Aisea Natoga
Fergus McFadden 13 Andrew Bishop
Ian Madigan 12 Hanno Dirksen
Dave Kearney 11 Tom Grabham
Jimmy Gopperth 10 Sam Davies
Eoin Reddan (C)
9 Martin Roberts

Michael Bent 1 Marc Thomas
Bryan Byrne 2 Sam Parry
Tadhg Furlong 3 Dmitri Arhip
Mike McCarthy 4 Lloyd Peers (C)
Kane Douglas 5 Tyler Ardron
Dominic Ryan6 Joe Bearman
Jordi Murphy 7 Sam Lewis
Jack Conan 8 Dan Baker

Replacements James Tracy 16 Scott Otten
Peter Dooley 17 Gareth Thomas
Jamie Hagan 18 Cai Griffiths
Tom Denton 19 Rynier Bernardo
Rhys Ruddock 20
Ieuan Jones
Isaac Boss21 Tom Habberfield
Noel Reid 22 Josh Matavesi
Gordon D'Arcy 23 Dafydd Howells

Not Considered
due to Injury
Sean O'Brien,
Cian Healy,
Martin Moore,
Edward Byrne,
Ben Te'o,
Shane Jennings,
Luke Fitzgerald,
Richardt Strauss,
Kevin McLaughlin,
Aaron Dundon

Morgan Allen,
Ashley Beck,
Ryan Bevington,
Ifereimi Boladau,
Jeff Hassler,
Duncan Jones,
Ross Jones,
Nicky Smith,
Tom Smith,
Jonathan Spratt,
De Kock Steenkamp,
Eli Walker
Officials Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR, 32nd competition game),
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton, Stuart Gaffikin (both IRFU),
Citing Commissioner: Denis Templeton (IRFU),
TMO: Alan Rogan (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2014-11-28