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Leinster Rugby vs Ospreys,
Donnybrook, Dublin,
06th January 2007, 19:30

Leinster meet the Neath-Swansea Ospreys this weekend hoping to maintain the pressure on leaders Ulster. The win over Ulster on New Year's Eve cut their lead to three points and Leinster will be looking to maintain the charge. With the bizarre scheduling of the Magners League, Leinster's next four games are all at home. Then in April four out of our last five games are away from home. It's a tough run-in so it's vital that Leinster win the next four home games starting with tomorrow evening.

After a busy off-season's recruiting, the Ospreys were tipped by many as potential league Champions this year. They've blown hot and cold somewhat, but some recent good form has seen them climb to third in the table, with a game in hand over Leinster. They're in a good position to challenge for the title, so it's strange to see them name an under-strength side for tomorrow.

Coach Lyn Jones has made eleven changes to the side that beat the Dragons last Sunday. Admittedly they have fourteen players out injured but he's also chosen to rest Justin Marshall, Gavin Henson and James Hook. So their team is far from the all-star line-up that was expected. Having said that Leinster still have to go out and win and the Ospreys still have enough quality to make a game of it.

International lock Brent Cockbain is the biggest name in the pack, although Andy Lloyd and Richard Pugh are regulars as well. Out-half Shaun Connor has hurt Leinster in the past and will have to be watched. They also have a young centre partnership in Tal Selley and Andrew Bishop that will be eager to test themselves against the best centre partnership in the world. Full back Stefan Terblanche is also a big counter-attacking threat.

In contrast to the Ospreys, Leinster have opted to make minimal changes. Stan Wright replaces the injured Ronnie McCormack at loose-head prop. Cameron Jowitt gets a rare start at lock in place of Trevor Hogan who reverts to the bench. After coming on in the last two games, Leinster fans will be delighted to see Felipe Contepomi reclaim the number 10 shirt from Jonny Sexton (who did well in his two starts). The only other change is a rare start for Kieran Lewis on the wing instead of Shane Horgan who gets a well-deserved rest.

Leinster have had slip-ups against unfancied teams before (Borders anyone?) so the Ospreys have to be treated with the utmost respect. However if Leinster can generate enough good quality ball it's hard to see them not winning, and winning well at that.



Rob Kearney, Kieran Lewis, Brian O'Driscoll (C), Gordon D'Arcy, Denis Hickie, Felipe Contepomi, Chris Whitaker, Stanley Wright, Bernard Jackman, Will Green, Cameron Jowitt, Malcolm O'Kelly, Stephen Keogh, Keith Gleeson, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Reggie Corrigan, Harry Vermaas, Owen Finegan, Trevor Hogan, Guy Easterby, Jonathan Sexton, Ross McCarron

Stefan Terblanche, Jonathan Vaughton, Tal Selley, Andrew Bishop, Richard Mustoe, Shaun Connor, Martin Roberts, Paul James (C), Ed Shervington, Andrew Millward, Brent Cockbain, Michael Powell, Lee Beach, Richard Pugh, Andy Lloyd
Replacements: Barry Williams, Adam Jones, Chris Martenko, Ben Lewis, Jason Spice, Nikki Walker, A.N. Other

by Jim O'Connor, © 2007-01-06