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Leinster Rugby vs Ospreys
Guinness Pro12 Round 4
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Friday, 23rd September 2016, 19:35

Television: Live: TG4

Leinster finally got a win in Scotland last week, but typically, they had to make life hard for themselves. After a slow start, they ripped into a fairly poor Edinburgh team and had the four try bonus point secured before half-time. Unfortunately they took that as a sign to knock off for the evening and they were awful in the second half, letting Edinburgh close to within six points of them. They finally raised themselves to finish the game off when the excellent Dan Leavy scored his second try of the night with the final play of the game, but the players will have had a flea in their ear all week from the coaching staff.

They will certainly have to play for 80 minutes this week as they take on the form team in the league in the Ospreys. The Ospreys are top of the table with a perfect record of 15 points out of 15 so far. Admittedly they've hammered the two Italian teams at home but they also went to Connacht and stuffed the champions there. It's been a fallow time for the Ospreys since they last won the league in 2012, but last season was a new low for them. They never recovered from a bad start during the World Cup and they ended up finishing in 8th place and now they face playing in the Challenge Cup for the first time in their history. All these travails seemed to have focused minds and they've started the season like a team desperate to get back to the top table.

They've picked a team in which their great servant Alun Wyn Jones makes his 200th Ospreys appearance. Jones and Welsh international hooker Scott Baldwin come in to start in the only two changes to the pack. They can welcome back the Welsh half-back pairing of Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar to their starting XV with the in-form Sam Davies moving to full back to accommodate Biggar. Ben John moves to the left wing to allow Ashley Beck to come in at outside centre in the final change. It's a very strong looking team.

For Leinster the big news is of course the return of Johnny Sexton, whose charity motivated blonde dye job is perhaps the most disconcerting of them all. The out-half returns in a side that shows six changes to the team that started last week. Sexton partners Luke McGrath in an otherwise unchanged backline. In the pack Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Mick Kearney and Josh van der Flier all come in to start. Rhys Ruddock is fit enough to feature for the first time this season on a bench that shows a 6-2 split between forwards and backs.

This will be a tough game for Leinster. The RDS has been a happy hunting ground for the Ospreys in the past and they will be well aware of Leinster's patchy form so far this season. Hopefully Leinster can edge it, but this one could well go down to the wire.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Teams Zane Kirchner 15 Sam Davies
Isa Nacewa (C)
14 Jeff Hassler
Garry Ringrose 13 Ashley Beck
Noel Reid 12 Josh Matavesi
Dave Kearney 11 Ben John
Johnny Sexton 10 Dan Biggar
Luke McGrath
9 Rhys Webb

Cian Healy 1 Paul James
Sean Cronin 2 Scott Baldwin
Tadhg Furlong 3 Dmitri Arhip
Devin Toner 4 Lloyd Ashley
Mick Kearney 5 Alun Wyn Jones (C)
Jordi Murphy 6 James King
Josh van der Flier 7 Justin Tipuric
Jamie Heaslip 8 Tyler Ardron

Replacements James Tracy 16 Sam Parry
Jack McGrath 17 Nicky Smith
Mike Ross 18 Ma'afu Fia
Ross Molony 19 Bradley Davies
Rhys Ruddock 20
Dan Baker
Dan Leavy 21 Tom Habberfield
Jamison Gibson-Park 22 Dafydd Howells
Joey Carbery 23 Dan Evans

Not Considered
due to Injury
Edward Byrne,
Jack Conan,
Sean O'Brien,
Richardt Strauss,
Ian Fitzpatrick,
Billy Dardis,
Robbie Henshaw,
Ian Nagle,
Rob Kearney,
Fergus McFadden

Hanno Dirksen,
Dan Lydiate,
Sam Underhill,
Owen Watkin

by Jim O'Connor, © 2016-09-22