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Magners Preview: Ospreys v Connacht

Magners Preview: Ospreys v Connacht

Connacht face former champions the Ospreys in the Magners League on Sunday, determined to end their poor run of away form in the competition. Both teams are European quarter-finalists this season but the Ospreys are also still in the league title hunt and bottom side Connacht need to put pressure back on their basement rivals.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Sunday, February 22

OSPREYS (2nd) v CONNACHT (10th), Liberty Stadium, 2.15pm (live S4C/Setanta Sports Ireland)

Team News: Connacht coach Michael Bradley has confirmed his starting line-up and replacements for Sunday’s Magners League meeting with the Ospreys.

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Connacht have made one change for their Magners League clash with the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.

Colm Rigney comes into the back row at number 8 for the injured Mike McCarthy who broke a bone in his foot at training this week, with captain John Muldoon reverting to blindside flanker.

The following players were not considered for selection due to injury: Brian McGovern (ankle), Mike McCarthy (foot), Johnny O’Connor (calf) and Aidan Wynne (jaw).

Meanwhile, Wales have released flanker Jonathan Thomas to play for the Ospreys against Connacht this weekend.

The fit-again Thomas will line out in the second row for the Welsh region, who are without 11 of their Wales internationals due to RBS 6 Nations duty and Tommy Bowe is also away with the Ireland squad.

Samoan captain Filipo Levi will make his full Ospreys debut, having spent the last two seasons playing for Japanese club Ricoh Black Rams.

Sonny Parker, Gareth Owen, Andy Lloyd and Jonathan Spratt are all back from injury and straight into the Ospreys matchday squad.

Ospreys coach Sean Holley said: “We’re in a strong position in the Magners League, and with two home matches during the Six Nations period it is imperative that we maintain the standards we have set so far this season.

“It is very tight at the top of the table, so we know what we have to do in order to not only keep up the pressure on Munster at the top, but also allow us to stay ahead of the chasing pack.

“Connacht may feel that we are a depleted side, but our success this season and in the past is down to us having a strong squad and players who are all challenging for places in the starting 15.

“The side that we have named is a good mix of youth an experience, with a lot of quality in the team.”

OSPREYS: Gareth Owen; Kristian Phillips, Sonny Parker, Jonathan Spratt, Jonny Vaughton; Dan Biggar, Jamie Nutbrown; Paul James (capt), Richard Hibbard, Cai Griffiths, Filipo Levi, Jonathan Thomas, Tom Smith, Steve Tandy, Filo Tiatia.

Replacements: Ed Shervington, Ryan Bevington, Andy Lloyd, Marty Holah, Rhys Webb, Ashley Beck, David Bishop.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Fionn Carr, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Liam Bibo; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Robbie Morris, Andrew Browne, Andrew Farley, John Muldoon (capt), Ray Ofisa, Colm Rigney.

Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, Michael Swift, David Gannon, Kieran Campbell, Andy Dunne, Troy Nathan.

Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Leighton Hodges, Alan Jenkins (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Hugh Watkins (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ospreys to win: 1/8; Draw: 25/1; Connacht to win: 5/1 

Say What: Filipo Levi (Ospreys’ new signing) – “I’m really excited about joining up with the Ospreys and being part of a squad that is packed with quality players.

“The Ospreys have been successful over the last few years, winning Magners League titles and the EDF Cup against Leicester, and I’m well aware that I’m arriving at a time when we are still heavily in contention on three fronts.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of bringing more success to the region. I’ve only just arrived here but I’ve picked up on a fantastic buzz about the place already and I’m really looking forward to running out at the Liberty Stadium for my debut on Sunday.”

Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “The Ospreys have a lot of strength in depth and despite missing some players with the Six Nations underway they’ll still be able to field a very strong side.

“We’ve two matches during the Six Nations against the Ospreys and Cardiff and know that we’ll be facing some depleted sides and with that it mind it’s an opportunity for us to get some championship points.

“The Ospreys are currently lying second in the table and they’ve shown some fine form in the Heineken Cup too which has got them to the quarter-finals, so we know we’ll have a very tough game come Sunday.”

Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Ospreys: James Hook 95; Connacht: Ian Keatley 78; Tries: Ospreys: James Hook, Nikki Walker 3 each; Connacht: Fionn Carr 3


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
Friday, May 9, 2008 – Connacht 24 Ospreys 20, The Sportsground
Friday, September 5, 2008 – Connacht 3 Ospreys 16, The Sportsground


– The Ospreys have lost three of their last five Magners League matches. Their only defeat at the Liberty Stadium in their last nine outings was a 25-21 loss to Munster on January 9

– Connacht’s 49-3 victory at home to Dax last time out in the European Challenge Cup on January 23 ended a three-game losing run for them in all competitions

– Connacht’s only win in their last 22 away games in the Magners League since September 2006 was a 13-11 victory at the Dragons on April 18 last

– The Ospreys have won three of their last four encounters with Connacht. The Irish side’s last win on Ospreys soil was a 10-9 success at the Gnoll on November 21, 2004