24 May, 14:08
The Irish Rugby Supporters Club is delighted to announce that tickets for the GUINNESS Series 2013 will go on sale on ticketmaster.ie at 10am on Thursday, May 30.
(Well, did you really need to see another shot of rugby players?)
Even though the rugby community is salivating at the main course, the Heineken European Cup, there is a bit of the crispy shredded duck starter about Leinster's game against The Ospreys - very tasty, and often better than the main event in my experience.
Not to belittle Benetton Treviso, but there is little doubt about which of Leinster's coming two fixtures is the tougher ask.
The Ospreys are flying high with six consecutive wins in the Celtic League. They are the most prolific points scorers in the tournament, have racked up the most bonus points and have, in Gavin Henson, probably the outstanding individual in the tournament to date.
It is a touch ironic that the only side to deny The Ospreys a bonus point so far in the tournament is The Borders, given that they are also the only team without a win. Testimony to the strength of the league, or just an off night from the Welsh side?
Perhaps a bit of both. Whichever it was, there can be no doubting the size of Leinster's task. Still, when you look at the sheer depth of talent available to Declan Kidney, you've always got to give them a chance. And, having got the Dragons match out of their system with a good win and superb final quarter performance against Edinburgh, Leinster look like they are about ready to hit their straps.
This week Kidney makes further changes that look designed to help settle on his preferred European lineup. Girvan Dempsey made a decent return last week and David Holwell, while not an unqualified success, showed signs that when he settles in he can bring the 'old head' that has been a missing ingredient in previous years.
Shane Horgan is the man that missed a seat when the music stopped this week, Kidney bringing back Denis Hickie and keeping faith with the man named as Ireland's Celtic League Player of the Month for September, Gary Brown. Felipe Contepomi also retains the inside centre shirt, with Gordon D'Arcy named on the bench, but surely to get a run. Guy Easterby will be looking to produce a big game, what with Brian O'Meara having produced a fine all-round performance last week.
Not that it's much less competitive up front. Leo Cullen was voted Leinster Player of the Month, but much watch Ben Gissing press his claim alongside Malcolm O'Kelly. Ricky Nebbett, improving by the match, starts at tighthead with Emmett Byrne on the bench. The backrow battleground sees Aidan McCullen, scorer of a sizzling late try last week on the blindside, Shane Jennings openside and Des Dillon seeking to usurp last week's Man of the Match, Victor Costello, at No. 8. Assuming Eric Miller is fit to take his place on the bench, six of the seven replacements will be full internationals.
The Ospreys are missing international stars Jonathan Thomas and Stefan Terblanche to injury, but can still call upon such as Shane Williams, Gavin Henson, Sonny Parker, Jason Spice in the backline and Duncan Jones, Barry Williams, Brent Cockbain, rising star Ryan Jones and in-form Lyndon Bateman up front.
Now, what chance Bellefire at the next Leinster match?
Leinster: 15: Girvan Dempsey 14: Gary Brown 13: Brian O'Driscoll 12: Felipe Contepomi 11: Denis Hickie 10: David Holwell 9: Guy Easterby 1: Reggie Corrigan (Captain) 2: Shane Byrne 3: Ricky Nebbett 4: Malcolm O'Kelly 5: Ben Gissing 6: Aidan McCullen 7: Shane Jennings 8: Des Dillon Replacements: 16: Emmett Byrne 17: Gavin Hickie 18: Leo Cullen 19: Eric Miller / Ciaran Potts 20: Brian O'Meara 21: Gordon D'Arcy 22: Shane Horgan
The Ospreys Squad of 23 is: Backs Adrian Durston Richard Mustoe Sonny Parker David Bishop Elvis Seveali'i Shane Williams Gavin Henson Matthew Jones Andy Williams Jason Spice Forwards Duncan Jones Adam Jones Andrew Millward Paul James Mefin Davies Barry Williams Andy Newman Lyndon Bateman Brent Cockbain Ryan Jones Andy Lloyd Richard Pugh James Bater