Leinster resume their Magners League title challenge at the RDS tonight, in what will be a third game in just six days for the visiting Ospreys. This top of the table clash has plenty riding on it as the sides look to edge closer to a home semi-final.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, April 16
LEINSTER (1st) v OSPREYS (2nd), the RDS, 7.05pm (live Setanta Sports 1/BBC Wales)
Team News: Leo Cullen will lead an experienced Leinster side for the visit of the second-placed Ospreys.
Cian Healy and Mike Ross come into the starting front row alongside John Fogarty, with Shane Jennings continuing in the back row alongside fellow Ireland internationals Kevin McLaughlin and Jamie Heaslip.
Shaun Berne will partner Eoin Reddan at half-back, starting in place of the injured Jonathan Sexton, while Gordon D’Arcy will be joined at centre by Bank of Ireland Player of the Month Fergus McFadden who will make his 15th appearance of the season.
Girvan Dempsey starts at full-back, replacing the injured Rob Kearney, in a back-three which also includes Shane Horgan and Isa Nacewa. The replacements bench will be confirmed closer to kick-off.
Over 15,000 tickets have now been sold for Friday’s game. Tickets are still on sale here and can be purchased from Ticketmaster outlets.
Meanwhile, former All Black Jerry Collins will skipper the Ospreys in Dublin as regular captain Ryan Jones drops back to the replacements bench, along with fellow frontliners Mike Phillips and James Hook.
Ireland winger Tommy Bowe, who scored against his native province Ulster earlier this week, is missing from the matchday squad, but the Ospreys have two excellent starting wingers in Nikki Walker and Shane Williams.
The Ospreys management, headed by Scott Johnson and Sean Holley, have brought 33 players on this week’s mini tour of Ireland.
Their squad rotation sees Walker, Andrew Bishop and Jamie Nutbrown come into the back-line, having seen action as replacements in the 38-27 win over Ulster.
Up front, Paul James and Ed Shervington have been bumped up from the bench to join Adam Jones in the front row.
Welsh international duo Ian Gough and Alun Wyn Jones will form the second row partnership, with foreign stars Collins, Marty Holah and Filo Tiatia combining in a hard-hitting back row.
LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, Isa Nacewa; Shaun Berne, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, John Fogarty, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Nathan Hines, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements (from): Richardt Strauss, Stan Wright, Malcolm O’Kelly, Stephen Keogh, Paul O’Donohoe, Eoin O’Malley, Andrew Conway, Simon Keogh.
OSPREYS: Lee Byrne; Nikki Walker, Sonny Parker, Andrew Bishop, Shane Williams; Dan Biggar, Jamie Nutbrown; Paul James, Ed Shervington, Adam Jones, Ian Gough, Alun Wyn Jones, Jerry Collins (capt), Marty Holah, Filo Tiatia.
Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Craig Mitchell, Ian Evans, Ryan Jones, Mike Phillips, James Hook, Gareth Owen.
Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Peter Roche (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Alan Rogan (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 3/10; Draw: 22/1; Ospreys to win: 12/5
Pre-Match Quotes: Michael Cheika (Leinster) – “Johnny (Sexton), as has been reported, had a little operation. We will just see how he pans out.
“I would say, looking into the extent of the injury first hand, that it is probably going to be a few weeks – It’s a little crack in his jaw.
“He is pretty good really, but it is a pretty obvious injury and he can’t just go out there and say, ‘I’ll be alright’, strap it up and away you go.
“I would say it is fairly touch and go as to whether he plays in the Heineken Cup semi-final (against Toulouse) or not. Our first concern is this week’s match but he is definitely out of that one. (Rob) Kearney is pretty much the same.
“Rob, with his ankle, is not as bad as we first thought. When you get carried off on a stretcher it isn’t ideal but, again, he will be touch and go in that environment and he is definitely out of this week’s match.
“(Brian) O’Driscoll is out of this week’s match as well. We are probably a little bit more hopeful for him now (with his knee injury), of getting himself right in the next couple of weeks.
“We have to play the Ospreys on Friday, a team that should probably be in the Heineken Cup semi-finals themselves and they will be hurting from it.
“We believe in ourselves, there is no issue there. We have got to manage our resources well and we have had a good season so far. We haven’t had many losses.
“The focus has got to be on ourselves. Maybe because we hadn’t played Clermont Auvergne before I was a bit guilty of making the team too aware of the opposition’s threats as opposed to worrying about Leinster, so that’s a lesson learned for me.
“I’ll just get the team sorted out in its own play. We have worked on a lot of basic play now that we are going to stick to over the next while – get everyone positive about our own attack and defence.”
Filo Tiatia (Ospreys) – “I think we all enjoyed Tuesday night’s performance against Ulster. It was the perfect response from the boys, of course it was, and it was important that we showed that we had the spirit and belief to react so positively.
“We were all disappointed last weekend (after the Biarritz match), but we had to put that behind us. You want to perform as good as you can when you pull on the Ospreys jersey, it means a lot to us all, and I think we showed that against a pretty gritty Ulster side.
“We’ve spent some time reviewing the game and looking at what we did well and what areas we can improve on for Friday night.
“That’s been the main task this week, making sure that we review our performances and our opponents properly, it’s been all about ensuring the preparation has been right.
“We have to maintain the same standards and level of performance, the benchmark has been set now and we have to live up to that.
“The last two games are been and gone now. We are playing against a good side on Friday night, against the Heinken Cup champions and current league leaders, and then next week it’s the Magners League champions Munster.
“That’s the challenge that is in front of us now. Historically we haven’t won very often out in Leinster, so you would say that there is a small mountain for us to climb before we can secure a play-off place, but it’s definitely achievable and that is what we’ve been focusing on.”
Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Leinster – Points: Jonathan Sexton 113; Tries: Rob Kearney 3; Ospreys – Points: Dan Biggar 135; Tries: Tommy Bowe 7
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Friday, September 18, 2009 – Ospreys 11 Leinster 18, Liberty Stadium
– Leinster are unbeaten in their last dozen matches in all competitions, since the Newport Gwent Dragons won 30-14 at Rodney Parade in the Magners League on December 6
– Leinster have won their last 13 Magners League games at the RDS since Munster won there, 19-0, in September 2008
– The Ospreys claimed a bonus point 38-27 win over Ulster at Ravenhill last Tuesday, moving up to the second place in the Magners League table
– Leinster have won their last five games against the Ospreys. The Welshmen’s only previous win on Leinster soil was a 16-12 success at Donnybrook in March 2005