The Ospreys will take on an Irish province for the third week running when Leinster pay Liberty Stadium a visit. Ulster came away from the Swansea venue with a famous 20-16 victory last weekend, and Michael Cheika’s men venture across the Irish Sea in good spirits after opening their win account for the campaign with a 23-14 home win over the Dragons.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, September 18
OSPREYS (4th) v LEINSTER (3rd), Liberty Stadium, 7.05pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland/BBC Wales)
Team News: International duo Nathan Hines and Eoin Reddan will make their first starts for Leinster in Friday’s game in Swansea.
Scotland’s Hines partners Malcolm O’Kelly in the second row, while in the front row Stan Wright lines up alongside Cian Healy and John Fogarty.
Ireland scrum half Reddan will link up with Jonathan Sexton in a back-line which also sees Gordon D’Arcy come in for his first start of the season.
The back-three of David Kearney, Shane Horgan and Isa Nacewa remains the same as the one that started last weekend’s 23-14 victory over the Dragons at the RDS.
The replacements bench will be confirmed closer to kick-off.
Looking to build on that first win of the campaign over the Dragons, full-back Nacewa is expecting a fiercely competitive game against the Ospreys.
“The Ospreys will prove to be a stiff test for us coming, as it does, after having lost their last game at home to Ulster,” he said.
“Like us, they have a proud record at home and I’m sure that they’ll be determined to get back to winning ways so we’ll need to be focused and wary of them.
“I’m definitely pleased with our form after the first two games. As a squad we felt that had we been a bit more clinical against the Scarlets in week one then we could have won that game and though the Dragons were tough opponents, we showed definite improvements last weekend in the RDS.
“We’ve seen a fair bit of the Ospreys in recent weeks and they’re an extremely talented side.
“Friday’s game will have a Super 14 feel to it with Jerry Collins, Filo Tiatia and Marty Holah. They’re three top class performers and I’ve played against them back in New Zealand.
“It will be a real battle up front to match them, but we know that the Ospreys have a lot of other threats.”
The Aucklander added: “There was a bit of talk about the challenges facing us with three of the first four games being away from home, but we know the confidence that breeds from winning on the road.
“It helps morale, sets you up for the challenges ahead and, most importantly, it gets you up the Magners League table.
“Friday night will be a tough task for us, but it’s one that we are going to have to meet head on.”
Meanwhile, the Ospreys management have made a number of changes to the side that succumbed to a 20-16 defeat to Ulster at home last weekend.
Tommy Bowe and Jonathan Thomas come in for their first starts of the campaign, while Bowe’s Lions colleague Lee Byrne makes his seasonal bow at full-back.
Jamie Nutbrown replaces Mike Phillips at scrum half and Jonathan Spratt will link up in midfield with Andrew Bishop, who will be making his 100th appearance for the Ospreys.
Ospreys captain Ryan Jones has been ruled out due to a rib injury – Tom Smith will done the number 8 jersey in his absence – but Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones will give the region added options off the bench.
OSPREYS: Lee Byrne; Tommy Bowe, Jonathan Spratt, Andrew Bishop, Nikki Walker; James Hook, Jamie Nutbrown; Duncan Jones, Huw Bennett, Craig Mitchell, Ian Gough, Jonathan Thomas, Jerry Collins, Marty Holah (capt), Tom Smith.
Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Paul James, Alun Wyn Jones, Filo Tiatia, Mike Phillips, Dan Biggar, Gareth Owen.
LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa; Shane Horgan, Gordon D’Arcy, Shaun Berne, David Kearney; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, John Fogarty, Stan Wright, Nathan Hines, Malcolm O’Kelly, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings (capt), Sean O’Brien.
Replacements (from): Bernard Jackman, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen, Devin Toner, Stephen Keogh, Chris Keane, Fergus McFadden, Simon Keogh.
Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Tim Hayes, Alan Jenkins (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Tony Rowlands (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ospreys to win: 8/13; Draw: 20/1; Leinster to win: 5/4
Say What: Kurt McQuilkin (Leinster) – “Friday’s game presents a real challenge to us. It was good to get our first win of the campaign last weekend, but even in victory there were areas that we need to improve,” he said.
“Defensively we weren’t happy with our first-up tackling or our line speed. Our resets worked well but we have work to do this week.
“I think that the first two games of the season have shown that there’s good competition for places in our squad.
“The depth in all positions means that players know that if they slip up in training or in matches that there will be someone chomping at the bit to get into each week’s team.
“If you have an average day at the office then you could lose your place and I think that that fear drives the players on.
“It was good for the likes of Darce, Nathan (Hines) and Redser (Eoin Reddan) to get their first game of the season under their belts so they, along with the other returning players, will get sharper as the games come on thick and fast.
“Mike Ross performed strongly up front along with the other forwards so our form is improving.
“The Ospreys are an outstanding team with speed, power and skill across their pack and back-line.
“In (Jerry) Collins, (Filo) Tiatia and Ryan Jones they have a really physical back row presence who will come right up at you in midfield.
“Then take someone like Mike Phillips who is a key man for them. He likes to probe around the fringes and is another big presence and with players of the calibre of Jonny Vaughton, Tommy Bowe and Shane Williams out wide, they have serious pace which we will need to contend with.
“Even though they will have been disappointed with their defeat to Ulster last time out, they remain serious contenders for the title and we know that we will need to raise our performance levels to get a result.
“It just shows how wide open the competition is this year.”
Scott Johnson (Ospreys) – “We’re disappointed with the Ulster game went last weekend, we’re disappointed with the way we played, there’s no other way of saying it.
“There won’t be any kneejerk reactions here though, we can’t change everything we are trying to do here on the back of one game and one poor performance – that would just be crazy and would get us nowhere in the long term.
“If you look at results so far this season, not just in the Magners but in England as well, other sides have had disappointing results already, but those teams aren’t tearing everything up and starting again, and neither are we.
“We’ve got to keep things in perspective and realise that we’ve only lost one game. The reaction since Saturday has been good one and we are looking to move forward from that.
“Leinster at home on Friday night is the ideal challenge, they are tough opposition, but you’ve got to get back on the horse straight away.
“We’ve made some changes as we’re looking to get players up to speed and into the squad and a few more boys will get some game time this weekend, some will come off the bench, and with a short turnaround this week we’ve had to change things around a bit in terms of personnel.”
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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, The RDS
Friday, September 19, 2008 – Leinster 19 Ospreys 13, The RDS
Friday, March 6, 2009 – Ospreys 8 Leinster 13, Liberty Stadium
– The Ospreys slipped up in losing 20-16 to Ulster at Liberty Stadium last Saturday, and have now been defeated in three of their last five matches at their home ground
– Leinster lowered the colours of the Dragons last weekend at the RDS with a 23-14 success, but away from home the European champions have fallen to four successive defeats
– Leinster’s worst losing run in the league was six straight away defeats between February and May 2004
– Leinster have won their last four encounters with the Ospreys and have been victorious in each of their last two visits to Liberty Stadium