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Ospreys vs Leinster Rugby
Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Sunday, 28th November 2010, 17:00

Television: Live TG4

With Ireland's seemingly never ending Autumn International series finally drawing to an close this Sunday, Leinster provide the after-dinner entertainment as they take on the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium. With one eye on that match, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt will have the rosary beads out just praying it doesn't cost him any more players. Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald will now miss the Clermont double header as they both picked up knee injuries last week and won't be back until the New Year at the earliest. Any more injuries and the backline will be stretched to breaking point so it's vital that above all else, Leinster's backs stay healthy this weekend.

Leinster take on the Ospreys, the team who beat them at the RDS last season to win the first Magners League Grand Final. That defeat really left a sour taste on the whole of last season; particularly as so many Leinster players and coaches were leaving the province and were denied the fairytale ending. That isn't to say that the win was undeserved though, the Ospreys were by far the better team on the day.

They haven't had the best start to their defence of their championship though; their form has been very inconsistent so far. They've lost on the road to Ulster, Munster and Glasgow but will probably be most disappointed with the home loss to the Dragons. They bounced back well though last weekend with a good win away to Connacht, and this week they've been strengthened by the release of three players from the Wales squad.

Dan Biggar got a good bit of flak in the local media after Wales drew with Fiji in a poor match last weekend and so he'll have a point to prove this Sunday. He partners promising young scrum-half Rhys Webb, whose excellent form keeps James Nutbrown on the bench. Their outside backs are a mix of experienced old heads in Barry Davies, Sonny Parker and Richard Fussell and promising youngsters Gareth Owen and Ashley Beck.

There is more of an experienced look to the pack where Richard Hibbard and Ian Gough are back from the international squad to bulk up the front five. Gough partners another international in Ian Evans in the second row and Duncan Jones and Craig Mitchell are the props. Former New Zealand internationals Jerry Collins and Marty Holah make up the back row with young Welsh flanker Justin Tipuric. Collins will play at number eight and captains a very strong Ospreys team.

Leinster have been further affected by injuries picked up last week to Richardt Strauss, Shaun Berne and Trevor Hogan. The injury to Strauss will cause the most concern, as with John Fogarty retiring, he's the only experienced hooker left in the squad. This means Jason Harris-Wright makes his first ever start for Leinster and in truth, it's long overdue as he's been a full professional for two seasons now. He's a powerful player who's very mobile and he will be thankful his captain Leo Cullen is there to run the lineout after a week holding tackle-bags for Ireland for no discernable reason. Academy hooker Tom Sexton fills the replacement spot on the bench, the first time he's featured in a senior squad.

Ed O'Donoghue, who comes in for Hogan, partners Cullen and the last change in the pack is Dominic Ryan rotating in for Rhys Ruddock who drops to the bench. The two remaining changes are in the backline where Ian Madigan comes in for Berne who was so impressive in the victory over the Dragons last week. Madigan's only a young guy who's shown some good flashes of ability this season but he needs to work on his game management and Berne gave a master class in this last week. Shane Horgan was man of the match against the Dragons and his impressive form is very welcome considering the injuries in the back three. The final change from last week is Andrew Conway coming in for Dave Kearney on the left wing.

It's a very strong Ospreys line-up and Leinster will be up against it. The Ospreys pack will fancy their chances of targeting the Leinster set-piece so it's vital that the senior players lead by example and fight for everything they can get. It's going to be very tough to get anything out of this match, but if Leinster can hang in there up front then they might have a chance.

Team Lineups
Leinster Rugby
Teams Barry Davies
15 Isa Nacewa
Gareth Owen
14 Shane Horgan
Sonny Parker
13 Eoin O'Malley
Ashley Beck
12 Fergus McFadden
Richard Fussell
11 Andrew Conway
Dan Biggar
10 Ian Madigan
Rhys Webb
9 Isaac Boss

Duncan Jones
1 Heinke van der Merwe
Richard Hibbard
2 Jason Harris-Wright
Craig Mitchell
3 Clint Newland
Ian Gough
4 Leo Cullen (C)
Ian Evans
5 Ed O'Donoghue
Justin Tipuric
6 Dominic Ryan
Marty Holah
7 Shane Jennings
Jerry Collins (C)
8 Stephen Keogh

Replacements Mefin Davies
16 Tom Sexton
Joe Rees
17 Jack McGrath
Cai Griffiths
18 Mike Ross
James Goode
19 Eoin Sheriff
Tom Smith
20 Rhys Ruddock
Jamie Nutbrown
21 Paul O'Donohoe
Matthew Morgan
22 Ian McKinley
Tom Isaacs
23 Dave Kearney
Not Considered
due to Injury
Jonathan Spratt,
Ben Lewis,
Morgan Allen,
Eli Walker,
Ryan Bevington,
Ben John,
Dai Flanagan,
Shane Williams,
Kristian Phillips

Stan Wright,
Kevin McLaughlin,
Shaun Berne,
Luke Fitzgerald,
Rob Kearney,
Richardt Strauss,
Trevor Hogan
Officials Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: Tim Hayes, Jon Mason (both WRU)
TMO: Tony Rowlands (WRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2010-12-02