The stage is set for a massive encounter at the RDS as two in-form teams put their unbeaten Magners League records on the line in what should be an early season cracker.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, September 19
LEINSTER v OSPREYS, RDS, 7.35pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland/BBC Wales)
Team News: The Leinster team to face the Ospreys in Friday night’s Magners League showdown at the RDS has been announced.
Leo Cullen will make his first appearance of the season after being named in a Leinster line-up which shows five changes from the team that started last weekend’s 52-6 victory over Edinburgh.
Cullen will captain the side and has been named in the second row alongside Devin Toner who impressed as a replacement last Friday.
The third change in the pack sees Sean O’Brien come in as openside flanker, joining Cameron Jowitt and Jamie Heaslip in the back row.
In the back-line, Shane Horgan starts on the right wing while the final change sees Isa Nacewa partner Chris Whitaker at half-back.
Luke Fitzgerald, the hat-trick hero from the Edinburgh game, lines up on the left wing with Girvan Dempsey continuing at full-back.
Meanwhile, Ospreys boss Sean Holley has made a massive 13 changes to the team that beat Glasgow 21-18 for this mouth-watering clash with Leinster.
Winger Nikki Walker and lock Alun Wyn Jones are the other players remaining from the side that edged out Glasgow at the Firhill Arena.
Amongst the big-hitters returning to the former champions’ line-up are Wales captain Ryan Jones and his international colleagues, full-back Lee Byrne and out-half James Hook.
Star winger Shane Williams is absent from the Ospreys squad due to a dead leg.
Included on the visitors’ injury list are Jamie Nutbrown (broken foot), Cai Griffiths (ankle) and Gareth Owen (ankle).
Experienced prop Paul James, who starts on the replacements bench, could set a new Ospreys caps record by coming on for his 102nd appearance.
LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll, Felipe Contepomi, Luke Fitzgerald; Isa Nacewa, Chris Whitaker; Ronan McCormack, Bernard Jackman, Stan Wright, Leo Cullen (capt), Devin Toner, Cameron Jowitt, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Cian Healy, John Fogarty, Malcolm O’Kelly, Stephen Keogh, Shane Jennings, Chris Keane, Rob Kearney.
OSPREYS: Lee Byrne; Tommy Bowe, Sonny Parker, Andrew Bishop, Nikki Walker; James Hook, Rhys Webb; Duncan Jones, Huw Bennett, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Ian Evans, Jonathan Thomas, Steve Tandy, Ryan Jones (capt).
Replacements: Ed Shervington, Paul James, Ian Gough, Filo Tiatia, Rhodri Wells, Daniel Biggar, Jonny Vaughton.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: George Clancy, Darragh McCormack (both Ireland)
TMO: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
Say What: Jonno Gibbes (Leinster forwards coach) – “The Ospreys will bring a big physical pack, 1 through 8. It’s going to be vitally important that we meet them head on and we win the gain-line.
“The guys are focused. They had a reasonably good win (over Edinburgh) last Friday and they turned up for training on Sunday and Monday focused, with a good attitude and working hard again.
“The Edinburgh result was indicative of four days great preparation and our Ospreys week has been prepared well, which is a good sign for Friday.
“For me, Edinburgh was a reflection of our Monday to Thursday. We prepared bloody well during the week and Friday was the outcome of how well we had prepared.
“The players were focused and we didn’t give Edinburgh an awful lot and we took the opportunities that we created.
“I wouldn’t say that we played a whole heap of rugby in that game, but we certainly converted the opportunities that we did create, and I think that was a real positive.
“The fact that we got 20-odd points ahead and didn’t take the foot off the gas was also a positive for us.”
Sean Holley (Ospreys) – “Friday night looks likely to be a cracking occasion, two in-form sides locking horns in front of a near sell-out crowd.
“We’re all really excited about it, it’s matches like this that we are all involved in rugby for. The matches between the two of us have generally tended to be close affairs over the years and I wouldn’t expect it to be any different this time around.
“When you look at the Leinster side, they are the Magners League champions, they are packed with quality and experience and they have threats right across the field so the size of the challenge that lies ahead of us if we are to get a result over there is clear.
“They have forwards who seem to deliver week in, week out, a first class defence and individuals of real ability behind so we know that we have to be on top of our game.
“However, we go into the game with confidence high after three straight wins and I don’t doubt for one minute that they will look at the side that we’ve named and think exactly the same thing, so it’s bound to be an intriguing clash.”
Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Leinster: Felipe Contepomi 33; Ospreys: James Hook 35; Tries: Leinster: Luke Fitzgerald 3; Ospreys: James Hook 2.
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Sunday, September 4, 2005 – Ospreys 22 Leinster 20, Liberty Stadium
Saturday, April 29, 2006 – Leinster 38 Ospreys 21, Lansdowne Road
Saturday, January 6, 2007 – Leinster 45 Ospreys 22, Donnybrook
Friday, April 27, 2007 – Ospreys 19 Leinster 17, Liberty Stadium
Friday, November 23, 2007 – Ospreys 19 Leinster 26, Liberty Stadium
Saturday, January 5, 2008 – Leinster 26 Ospreys 15, RDS
– Leinster have a proud home record in Dublin with just one defeat in the Irish capital in their last 27 matches in all competitions – that being a 52-23 loss to the Scarlets in the Magners League on October 5, 2007
– The Ospreys have beung their 2008/09 Magners League campaign with a perfect played 3, won 3 record – their best start since winning their first seven matches in the 2004/05 season
– Leinster have won four of the last five matches between the two teams
– The Ospreys’ only previous won away to Leinster was a 16-12 triumph at Donnybrook on March 6, 2005