With the Ospreys forced to field a depleted side, Leinster have a good chance to beat the Welshmen for the first time in Swansea when they visit the Liberty Stadium tonight (kick-off 7.10pm).
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, November 23
OSPREYS v LEINSTER, Liberty Stadium, 7.10pm (live Setanta Sports 2)
Team News: Ireland centre Gordon D’Arcy has been forced to withdraw from the Leinster team for tonight’s Magners League trip to the Ospreys, due to the hip injury he picked up against Toulouse last weekend.
D’Arcy had been originally pencilled to play against the Ospreys, but his place at inside centre will be taken by Felipe Contepomi with Jonathan Sexton now filling in for the Argentinian at number 10. Christian Warner has been added to the replacements bench.
A leg injury for Ireland full-back Girvan Dempsey means Leinster will line out with Rob Kearney at full-back and Luke Fitzgerald on the left flank for the Liberty Stadium encounter.
Leinster will travel with a youthful half-back partnership, with Sexton and scrum half Cillian Willis both 22 years of age.
In the pack, Stan Wright, Leo Cullen and Keith Gleeson remain from last weekend with Cameron Jowitt, who came on as a replacement against Toulouse, forming a new back row unit alongside Kevin McLaughlin and Ireland international Gleeson.
Ireland ‘A’ hooker Brian Blaney also comes into the starting line-up, while the province’s bench includes the likes of Warner, Gary Brown, Ireland internationals Bernard Jackman, Malcolm O’Kelly and Shane Jennings, as well as fit-again Ireland ‘A’ scrum half Chris Keane.
A decision on replacement prop will be confirmed by the Leinster management closer to kick-off.
Meanwhile, the Ospreys will field a largely second string side, but will be boosted by an impressive looking all-Southern Hemisphere back row of Hale T-Pole, Marty Holah and team captain Filo Tiatia.
Full-back Gareth Owen and winger Aled Brew are also included for the first time in over a month.
The selected Ospreys side includes only four players who started last week’s game against Gloucester – Holah, Tiatia, Nikki Walker and Adam Jones.
The Welsh region are without the services of 17 players due to injury or international duty – Wales are playing South Africa in Cardiff tomorrow. Shane Williams (thigh), Justin Marshall (calf), Lee Byrne (ankle) and Ryan Jones (shoulder) are amongst their injured contingent.
OSPREYS: Gareth Owen; Nikki Walker, Mark Taylor, Andrew Bishop, Aled Brew; Shaun Connor, Martin Roberts; Paul James, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Andy Lloyd, Lyndon Bateman, Hale T-Pole, Marty Holah, Filo Tiatia (capt).
Replacements: Ed Shervington, Andrew Millward, Mike Powell, Tom Smith, Rhodri Wells, Ashley Beck, Jonathan Vaughton.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Felipe Contepomi, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Cillian Willis; Stan Wright, Brian Blaney, Juan Francisco Gomez, Leo Cullen, Devin Toner, Cameron Jowitt, Keith Gleeson, Kevin McLaughlin.
Replacements: Bernard Jackman, Cian Healy/Ollie Le Roux, Malcolm O’Kelly, Shane Jennings, Chris Keane, Christian Warner, Gary Brown.
Referee: Andy Macpherson (Scotland)
Coach Speak: Michael Cheika (Leinster) – “Sunday night was disappointing and in an away game environment, you can’t afford to make mistakes. We have to keep our composure a bit more and to play a bit smarter, especially as we are coming up against a very intelligent team.
“The Ospreys have a brilliant squad. They have great depth and even though they are likely to be without some of their Welsh internationals for this game, they have great experience in the likes of Marty Holah and Filo Tiatia.
“It’s not like we’re in a losing streak. Our last two performances in the Magners League before the win against Leicester had been good, away to Ulster and then at home to Connacht. We’re in third place in the league and we want to be as competitive as we possibly can be.
“This year I’m much happier with the squad’s ability to rotate and we will need to be at our best on Friday.”
Sean Holley (Ospreys assistant coach) – “This week’s game gives us an opportunity to show our capabilities as Magners League champions. Leinster will arrive highly motivated following their defeat in France last weekend and they will be looking to avenge two previous narrow defeats at the Liberty Stadium.
“We have a strong home record, fine support and the players in our team will be looking to make a point in advance of the fixtures against Harlequins and Ulster.
“There will be a number of fine players on show from both sides in what should be another quality Magners League fixture. With there being no autumn internationals in Ireland this season it is clear that Leinster will field a strong side which will give our players added motivation to set the standard for the Ospreys players on duty with Wales on Saturday.”
Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Leinster: Jonathan Sexton 59; Ospreys: Shaun Connor 60; Tries: Leinster: Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald 3 each; Ospreys: Lee Byrne 3.
PREVIOUS LEAGUE MEETINGS:
November 29, 2003: Ospreys 25 Leinster 36, The Gnoll
April 30, 2004: Leinster 16 Ospreys 16, Donnybrook
October 15, 2004: Ospreys 11 Leinster 3, St. Helen’s
March 6, 2005: Leinster 12 Ospreys 16, Donnybrook
September 4, 2005: Ospreys 22 Leinster 20, Liberty Stadium
April 29, 2006: Leinster 38 Ospreys 21, Lansdowne Road
January 6, 2007: Leinster 45 Ospreys 22, Donnybrook
April 27, 2007: Ospreys 19 Leinster 17, Liberty Stadium
– The Ospreys’ 26-18 defeat at Gloucester on Friday ended a four-game winning run in all competitions for the Welshmen. The last none Welsh team to win at Liberty Stadium was Ulster on May 26, 2006
– Leinster have won just one of their last six away games – a 30-19 success at the Cardiff Blues on September 28 last
– The last four encounters between the teams have been won by the home side on the day, whilst Leinster’s last win in Swansea was a 51-10 triumph against Swansea RFC at St. Helen’s in the European Cup on October 19, 2002