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Leinster Rugby vs Ospreys
Guinness Pro12 Round 17
RDS Showground, Dublin
Saturday, 5th March 2016, 15:00

Television: Sky Sports 3

Leinster kept things ticking along nicely last week with a bonus-point win away to Zebre. They remain a point behind leaders Connacht and with both the Scarlets and Ulster losing last weekend there's now a four-point gap between the top two and the rest. Leinster need to keep the pressure on Connacht though with a win against the Ospreys tomorrow.

The Ospreys are traditionally one of the powers of the league but they're virtually in the last chance saloon tomorrow. With six games left they're eighth in the table and eight points outside the top four. To make the play-offs they're really going to need to win all their remaining games and hope for a few favours along the way. They still haven't recovered from a start which saw them lose five of their first six games during the World Cup. They then went on a five-match winning streak before Leinster beat them at home in January. They have since managed to draw with Glasgow and beat Edinburgh and Munster but last week's defeat to Connacht was a huge blow to their play-off hopes.

The Connacht defeat was costly in injuries too as they picked up knocks to Paul James, JJ Engelbrecht, Aaron Jarvis and Eli Walker so coach Steven Tandy has made four changes to the team that started last week, including two positional switches. Powerful Welsh under-20 international Owen Watkin comes in for Engelbrecht and Josh Matavesi moves to outside centre. The back three of Dan Evans, Jeff Hassler and Ben John remains the same as does the half-back pairing of Sam Davies and Rhys Webb. Webb, who captains the side, is trying to prove his fitness to Warren Gatland to get back into the Welsh Six Nations squad, while Davies has been filling in very well for Dan Biggar, especially in terms of the place-kicking.

In the pack Nicky Smith replaces James in a front row alongside Sam Parry and Dmitri Arhip. Canadian skipper Tyler Ardron comes into the second row alongside Rory Thornton so James King moves to the back-row where he teams up with Olly Cracknell and the powerful ball carrier Dan Baker.

For Leinster there are seven changes to the side that beat Zebre as players are released from the the Ireland squad. So Cian Healy returns to make his 150th Leinster appearance in a new front row with Sean Cronin and Mike Ross. The second row of Ross Molony and Mick Kearney is retained and Rhys Ruddock comes into the back row alongside Jordi Murphy and Dan Leavy, who scored his first Leinster try last week. In the backs, Eoin Reddan and Ian Madigan come in to start at half back and the selection of Fergus McFadden over Adam Byrne is the only change to the outside backs.

The Ospreys have always given Leinster problems at the RDS and they'll make things tough as usual, but given the respective strength of the teams, Leinster should have enough to win comfortably enough tomorrow.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Teams Zane Kirchner
15 Dan Evans
Fergus McFadden 14 Jeff Hassler
Garry Ringrose 13 Josh Matavesi
Ben Te'o 12 Owen Watkin
Isa Nacewa (C) 11 Ben John
Ian Madigan 10 Sam Davies
Eoin Reddan 9 Rhys Webb (C)

Cian Healy
1 Nicky Smith
Sean Cronin 2 Sam Parry
Mike Ross
3 Dmitri Arhip
Ross Molony
4 Tyler Ardron
Mick Kearney 5 Rory Thornton
Rhys Ruddock 6 James King
Dan Leavy 7 Olly Cracknell
Jordi Murphy 8 Dan Baker

Replacements Richardt Strauss 16 Scott Otten
Peter Dooley
17 Gareth Thomas
Tadhg Furlong 18 Ma'afu Fia
Hayden Triggs 19 Adam Beard
Dominic Ryan 20
Joe Bearman
Luke McGrath
21 Tom Habberfield
Cathal Marsh 22 Jonathan Spratt
Noel Reid 23 Tom Grabham

Not Considered
due to Injury
Edward Byrne,
Tom Farrell,
Marty Moore,
Royce Burke-Flynn,
Gavin Thornbury,
Dave Kearney,
Sean O'Brien,
Isaac Boss,
Mike McCarthy,
Ross Byrne,
Luke Fitzgerald,
Jack Conan

Lloyd Ashley,
Ashley Beck,
Ryan Bevington,
Gareth Delve,
Hanno Dirksen,
Matthew Dwyer,
JJ Engelbrecht,
Aaron Jarvis,
Dafydd Howells,
Sam Underhill,
Eli Walker
Officials Referee: Ian Davies (WRU, 43rd competition game),
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton, Richard Kerr (both IRFU),
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (IRFU),
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2016-03-04