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Heineken Cup Preview: Leinster v Ospreys

Heineken Cup Preview: Leinster v Ospreys

Leinster are the first of the provinces in action during round 6 of the Heineken Cup, needing just a single match point against the Ospreys to seal their place in the knockout stages.

HEINEKEN CUP POOL 1: Friday, January 17

LEINSTER (1st) v OSPREYS (4th), the RDS, 8pm (live Sky Sports 1 HD/RTÉ 2fm/highlights TG4)

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Team News: Ahead of the visit to the RDS of the Ospreys on Friday evening, head coach Matt O’Connor has made a number of changes and one surprise addition to the replacements bench for the Heineken Cup round 6 tie.

The backs division sees no change from the side that started last Sunday’s hard-fought away win in Castres, but up front there are four changes in personnel.

However, the most surprising inclusion is the addition of the fit-again Richardt Strauss as reserve hooker.

The four-times capped Ireland international was diagnosed with a heart condition last October and while initially ruled out for the rest of the season, he has progressed excellently to the extent that the medical team has cleared him to play sooner than expected.

Sean Cronin is once again selected as the province’s starting hooker and will win his 63rd Leinster cap against the Ospreys, while the fit-again Cian Healy scrums down beside him after an impressive display off the bench against Castres.

On the other side of Cronin, having been named in Ireland’s extended Six Nations squad, Martin Moore gets the nod at tighthead prop. Last weekend’s starting props, Jack McGrath and Mike Ross, will provide cover from the bench.

Should Ross feature off the bench, it will be Corkman’s 100th Leinster appearance since joining in 2009/10 from Harlequins.

Devin Toner and Mike McCarthy are retained in the second row, but there are two changes in the back row with Kevin McLaughlin and Player of the Month Jordi Murphy making way for the fit-again Rhys Ruddock and Shane Jennings. Jamie Heaslip captains the side from number 8.

There is one final change for Friday with the Bank of Ireland logo on the jersey being replaced by the Gahan Meats logo.

Gahan Meats won a competition hosted by Bank of Ireland and were selected as the Leinster sponsors for the day and will have prominence on the jersey, in the matchday programme and on pitchside hoardings.

Further information about Gahan Meats can be found at www.gahanmeats.ie or you can follow them on www.twitter.com/gahanmeats.

Meanwhile, the Ospreys will bring their disappointing European campaign to a close in Dublin as they chase their second win in six pool outings.

Sam Davies and Ben John come into the back-line from the 29-17 loss to Northampton Saints last weekend, starting at full-back and inside centre respectively in place of the injured Richard Fussell and Tom Isaacs.

Experienced Wales and Lions campaigner Adam Jones takes over from Aaron Jarvis at tighthead prop, while head coach Steve Tandy has added international duo Tyler Ardron and Ryan Jones to the back row alongside in-form openside Justin Tipuric.

Italian scrum half Tito Tebaldi is the latest addition to the Ospreys’ injury list. He has been ruled out for six weeks with an ankle injury, joining the likes of Fussell, Isaacs, Sam Lewis, Joe Bearman and Ashley Beck on the sidelines.

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Dave Kearney, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Martin Moore, Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy, Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings, Jamie Healsip (capt).

Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Jack McGrath, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen, Jordi Murphy, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan, Zane Kirchner.

OSPREYS: Sam Davies; Jeff Hassler, Jonathan Spratt, Ben John, Aisea Natoga; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Ryan Bevington, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Ian Evans, Tyler Ardron, Justin Tipuric, Ryan Jones.

Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Marc Thomas, Dan Suter, Lloyd Peers, James King, Morgan Allen, Tom Habberfield, Matthew Morgan.

Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Cyril Lafon, Eric Soulan (both France)
Television Match Official: Laurent Valin (France)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/20; Draw: 35/1; Ospreys to win: 10/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Matt O’Connor (Leinster) – “All we’re focused on this week is winning, getting a result. It’s probably not that different to how you approach the league in reality.

“All league games are about winning and, then, you need to reassess inside the contest. That’s where we got to in Castres when we scored that late try through Jordi Murphy. The guys want to play and they want to get maximum points out of the game. We just need to win.

“The reality is that you are unlikely to be at home (in the quarter-finals). All you do is tick the first box, get the result.

“The confidence we gained across the group in Castres, knowing we are a pretty good team away from home. If we can replicate those performances we’ve had in the pool stages in a quarter-final, how tough a place it is, is irrelevant.

“The Ospreys are a good side. They probably haven’t got the same roster that they had two or three years ago for a number of reasons but they’ve got four Lions in the tight five, an incredibly good back row, Dan Biggar is as good a 10 as there is in Wales, he’s a good footballer.

“They’re a dangerous side if you give them opportunity and your set piece doesn’t function and you’re ill-disciplined then you’ve a chance to get beaten by them so we’ll have to be good. There’s no doubt about it.

“A lot of those things are really hard physical things. But, if you can match them there, you’re in with a chance.”

Chris Gibbes (Ospreys) – “It’s been great, I’m loving it here. It’s very different to what I’m used to in terms of coaching but I’m really enjoying it. The northern Hemisphere is very different to the southern Hemisphere in the way that we look at the game.

“Even though the principles are the same, the way it’s looked at and thought about is different and there are different impacts such as how much you have to travel here for games, but I’m really enjoying the challenge.

“It’d be nice to get one over on my brother (Jono, the Leinster forwards coach) over there, as we have currently drawn and lost one game against Leinster this season. There’s been a bit of banter this week between us and I’m sure it will intensify over the next few days!

“We definitely both want to win, there’s no doubt about it. He’s been in this game a wee bit longer than me in terms of coaching up here so he’s probably a bit more streetwise but we will be going all out for the win.

“Even though we won’t be progressing any further in this year’s competition we owe it to ourselves, our sponsors and especially to our fans to get it right and go all out to get it.

“We know it’s not going to be easy, Leinster are a team that can hurt you from anywhere if you let them.

“Against a team like that you can’t slack off even for a second as they can hurt you from any part of the field.

“So, this weekend it’s a matter of making sure that up front we get the momentum we need so that we can disrupt and stop their flow of ball and make sure that we win quality ball that allows us to go out and play how we want to play.”

Current Form – Leinster – (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 42-19 away to the Scarlets; Drew 29-29 at home to the Ospreys; Lost 12-6 away to Glasgow Warriors; Won 34-20 at home to the Cardiff Blues; Lost 19-15 away to Munster; (Heineken Cup): Won 19-9 away to the Ospreys; Won 19-7 at home to Castres Olympique; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 16-13 at home to Connacht; Won 23-19 away to Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 21-20 away to Benetton Treviso; Won 36-19 at home to the Scarlets; (Heineken Cup): Won 40-7 away to Northampton Saints; Lost 18-9 at home to Northampton Saints; (RaboDirect PRO12): Lost 11-6 away to Edinburgh; Won 19-6 at home to Ulster; Won 16-8 away to Connacht; (Heineken Cup): Won 29-22 away to Castres Olympique

Ospreys – (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 24-19 away to Benetton Treviso; Drew 29-29 away to Leinster; Won 44-10 at home to Edinburgh; Won 43-26 away to Connacht; Lost 18-12 at home to Ulster; (Heineken Cup): Lost 19-9 at home to the Ospreys; Lost 27-16 away to Northampton Saints; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 40-17 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Lost 12-6 away to Munster; (LV= Cup): Lost 39-16 away to Leicester Tigers; Lost 21-13 at home to the Cardiff Blues; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 30-20 at home to Zebre; Lost 28-16 at home to Glasgow Warriors; (Heineken Cup): Lost 15-9 away to Castres Olympique; Won 21-12 at home to Castres Olympique; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 22-19 away to the Cardiff Blues; Won 10-6 away to the Scarlets; Won 17-12 at home to the Scarlets; (Heineken Cup): Lost 29-17 at home to Northampton Saints

Top Scorers – 2013/14 Heineken Cup: Leinster – Points: Jimmy Gopperth 49; Tries: Luke Fitzgerald 3; Ospreys – Points: Dan Biggar 62; Tries: Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb, Alun Wyn Jones 1 each

Previous European Meetings: 1

Saturday, October 12, 2013 – Pool 1 – Ospreys 9 Leinster 19, Liberty Stadium

Match Facts & Figures –

– Leinster need just one match point from Friday’s game to be confirmed as pool winners

– The three-time champions’ 19-9 defeat of the Ospreys in round 1 was the only previous Heineken Cup meeting between the sides

– The Ospreys missed more than twice as many tackles (20) as Leinster (9) when the teams met in Swansea in October

– Dan Biggar is the tournament’s top points scorer after five rounds with 62 points. The Ospreys out-half has yet to miss a shot at goal (20/20)

– Justin Tipuric has won more turnovers (13) than any other player after five rounds.

– Leinster have won their last six home games against Welsh regions in the Heineken Cup: their last defeat was to the Scarlets in 1998

– The Ospreys have lost on three of four visits to Ireland in the Heineken Cup. All three defeats were by Munster with the victory coming against Ulster

– Leinster have averaged more clean breaks per game (8.8) than any other side so far this season

– Dan Biggar (6th – 1,552) and Jamie Heaslip (10th – 1,426) are among the top 10 players in the Heineken Cup this season according to the Amlin Opta Index

– After five rounds of Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup action, Leinster are ranked as the sixth best side on the Amlin Opta Index

Heineken Cup Records:

Leinster –
2012/13: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2011/12: Champions
2010/11: Champions
2009/10: Reached the semi-finals
2008/09: Champions
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2006/07: Reached the quarter-finals
2005/06: Reached the semi-finals
2004/05: Reached the quarter-finals
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2002/03: Reached the semi-finals
2001/02: Reached the quarter-finals
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1998/99: Failed to qualify from Pool A
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool A
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool B
1995/96: Reached the semi-finals

Ospreys –
2012/13: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2011/12: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2009/10: Reached the quarter-finals
2008/09: Reached the quarter-finals
2007/08: Reached the quarter-finals
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 2