With Heineken Cup qualification out of their reach, Connacht will be playing for pride against the Ospreys tonight (The Sportsground, kick-off 6.30pm). Retiring duo Matt Mostyn (injured) and Darren Yapp (benched) will hopefully get a winning send-off.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, May 9
CONNACHT v OSPREYS, The Sportsground, 6.30pm
Team News: Michael Bradley has made three changes to his Connacht side for Friday’s final Magners League clash of the season against the Ospreys at the Sportsground.
Ofisa Treviranus returns to the province’s starting line-up for the first time since December, having overcome his broken leg and come through last week’s match against the Cardiff Blues successfully.
Andy Dunne returns at out-half and in the second row Andrew Browne comes in for the injured David Gannon.
Connacht have eight players on their injury list at the moment – Tim Donnelly (shoulder), David Gannon (ankle), John Hearty (hip), John Lyne (hand), Joey Merrigan (foot), Matt Mostyn (calf), Ray Ofisa (hamstring) and Michael Swift (kidney).
It is sure to be an emotional night for the likes of Mostyn and Darren Yapp, who are both retiring from professional rugby.
Unfortunately the calf injury Mostyn sustained against Cardiff means he has played his final game for Connacht, although Yapp will be able to have one last run-out for the province off the bench.
The same goes for hooker John Fogarty, Connacht’s former captain, who is set to link up with Leinster next season, while Ireland-capped scrum half Tom Tierney is also leaving the province.
Meanwhile, Lyn Jones is banking on ‘tomorrow’s Ospreys’ to do the business in Galway with the majority of his first team squad either out injured or at a training camp in Wexford with the Wales squad.
Kristian Phillips gains his first start, with the young winger becoming the youngest ever player to start a Magners League game at 17 years and 250 days.
Dan Biggar also makes the replacements bench and another youngster, Bridgend prop Ryan Bevington, is also down for bench duty.
But Mark Taylor and Shaun Connor will add experience for the Welsh region. Taylor, the former Wales and Lions centre, will make his last appearance before his retirement from the game.
And out-half Connor, who will play for the Dragons next season, will be winning his 100th and final cap for the Ospreys.
CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Ofisa Treviranus, Mel Deane, Keith Matthews, Danny Riordan; Andy Dunne, Conor McPhillips; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Robbie Morris, Andrew Browne, Andrew Farley (capt), John Muldoon, Johnny O’Connor, Colm Rigney.
Replacements: John Fogarty, Ronan Loughney, Brian McGovern, Michael McCarthy, Conor O’Loughlin, Troy Nathan, Darren Yapp.
OSPREYS: Gareth Owen; Leigh Bevan, Mark Taylor, Jonathan Spratt, Kristian Phillips; Shaun Connor, Rhys Webb; Paul James (capt), Richard Hibbard, Cai Griffiths, Andy Lloyd, Lyndon Bateman, Hale T-Pole, Steve Tandy, Tom Smith.
Replacements: Ed Shervington, Ryan Bevington, Mike Powell, Marty Holah, Martin Roberts, Dan Biggar, Ashley Beck.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Say What: Lyn Jones (Ospreys) – “It will be another opportunity for some of our youngsters to show what they are capable of and what they can bring to the Ospreys next season when we anticipate that some of them will be challenging some of the more established players.
“The result didn’t go our way on Tuesday night, an experienced Dragons side closed the game off in the last fifteen minutes but there was a lot to be pleased about and we’ll be looking for more of the same on Friday.
“We’ll say farewell to a number of players after Friday night’s game. One of those, Shaun Connor, goes out on a high, making his 100th Ospreys appearance in his final outing for us.
“I’m delighted for him that he has managed to hit that landmark figure, becoming only the second Osprey to do so.
“He’s been a fantastic servant over the first five years of Ospreys rugby, and we wish him well for the future, as we do with all of the departing players.”
Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Connacht: Tim Donnelly 82; Ospreys: Shaun Connor 103; Tries: Connacht: Robbie Morris, Conor O’Loughlin, Danny Riordan 2 each; Ospreys: Lee Byrne, Shane Williams 3 each.
PREVIOUS LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, October 31, 2003 – Ospreys 22 Connacht 33, St. Helen’s
Saturday, April 3, 2004 – Connacht 24 Ospreys 21, The Sportsground
Sunday, November 21, 2004 – Ospreys 9 Connacht 10, The Gnoll
Sunday, April 10, 2005 – Connacht 13 Ospreys 22, The Sportsground
Friday, October 14, 2005 – Ospreys 18 Connacht 17, Liberty Stadium
Friday, May 12, 2006 – Connacht 16 Ospreys 44, The Sportsground
Friday, September 8, 2006 – Connacht 15 Ospreys 10, The Sportsground
Saturday, February 17, 2007 – Ospreys 31 Connacht 10, Liberty Stadium
Saturday, February 16, 2008 – Ospreys 37 Connacht 7, Liberty Stadium
– Connacht have won just one of their last seven matches in the Magners League – a 13-11 victory over the Dragons at Rodney Parade on April 18
– Connacht’s only defeat in their last five home games against the Welsh regions was a 39-11 success over the Cardiff Blues on May 2
– The Ospreys have lost on their last seven visits to Ireland for a Magners League game since beating Connacht 44-16 at the Sportsground on May 12, 2006
– Connacht’s only win in their last six matches against the Ospreys was a 15-10 triumph at the Sportsground on September 8, 2006