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Magners Preview: Leinster v Ospreys

Magners Preview: Leinster v Ospreys

Having impressed during the festive period, Leinster will look to put one over on defending league champions, the Ospreys, as the sides meet at the scene of last season’s grand final.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, January 7

LEINSTER (3rd) v OSPREYS (4th), the RDS, 7.35pm (live TG4/BBC Wales/Dahlia TV)

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Team News: The Leinster team to face the Ospreys in Friday’s Magners League clash at the RDS has been named.

Head coach Joe Schmidt has made 11 changes in personnel to the team that secured a bonus point victory over Connacht last Saturday.

Luke Fitzgerald starts at full-back in an all-Ireland qualified back-line for the visit of the Ospreys in a game which will mark the province’s 50th competitive encounter at the RDS.

It will be Fitzgerald’s first game back since injurying his knee in Ireland’s defeat to New Zealand in November.

He lines up in a back-three which includes the in-form Shane Horgan and Fergus McFadden, with Brian O’Driscoll partnering Gordon D’Arcy at centre and Jonathan Sexton and Eoin Reddan resuming their half-back partnership.

There are five changes up front. Leo Cullen skippers the side from the second row, with Dominic Ryan and Jamie Heaslip restored to the back row.

In the front row, Heinke van der Merwe and Clint Newland have made way for Ireland internationals Cian Healy and Mike Ross.

Isaac Boss, Nathan Hines and Rhys Ruddock have been named on a replacements bench which contains a mix of youth and experience and a decision on the final outside back replacement will be made closer to kick-off.

Leinster forwards coach Jono Gibbes said: “They (the Ospreys) have shown they have grown and developed and can withstand a bit of pressure.

“They were also able to get back into the game through the scrum, which seems to have grown another arm and a leg. They seem to have gained confidence out of it.

“We have had a nice little bit of growth with our scrum this season but every game is a little bit different. They could come with different tactics.

“The referee could interpret things a little bit differently. We need to be adaptable but we need to be focused or we could get embarrassed at home.”

Meanwhile, in the absence of Alun Wyn Jones, young flanker Justin Tipuric has been chosen to captain the Ospreys in Dublin.

The 21-year-old is the second youngest Ospreys captain ever after Jonathan Thomas who skippered the region in 2004 – less than a month after his 21st birthday.

The Ospreys will field a much-changed team for this heavyweight clash, with Barry Davies, Richad Fussell, Dan Biggar and Ian Gough the only survivors from the New Year’s Eve defeat to the Cardiff Blues.

The likes of Alun Wyn Jones, Tommy Bowe, Mike Phillips, Jerry Collins, Marty Holah, Adam Jones, Paul James and Richard Hibbard are all missing, along with Lee Byrne (thumb) and Shane Williams (shoulder).

Replacement James Hook is standing by to make his 100th appearance for the Ospreys, but lock Conor McInerney misses out on a runout against his native province due to a knee injury.

LEINSTER: Luke Fitzgerald; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Fergus McFadden; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Devin Toner, Dominic Ryan, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Heinke van der Merwe, Clint Newland, Nathan Hines, Rhys Ruddock, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan, Eoin O’Malley/Isa Nacewa.

OSPREYS: Barry Davies; Nikki Walker, Sonny Parker, Ashley Beck, Richard Fussell; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Duncan Jones, Huw Bennett, Craig Mitchell, Ian Gough, Ian Evans, Tom Smith, Justin Tipuric (capt), Ryan Jones.

Replacements: Mefin Davies, Ryan Bevington, Cai Griffiths, James Goode, Jonathan Thomas, Jamie Nutbrown, James Hook, Gareth Owen.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Simon McDowell, Mark Hermin (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Seamus Flannery (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/8; Draw: 25/1; Ospreys to win: 9/2

Pre-Match Quotes: Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster) – “It (the young players stepping up to the mark) is great for the team. One of the biggest issues we’ve had is when we’ve had internationals away, teams have targeted Leinster and we may have dropped points when we haven’t had the so-called starters playing.

“You look right across that team (from last weekend) and nobody looks out of place and everybody is fighting for positions. Competition breeds competition and I’m sure Joe has a little headache now when it comes to selection.

“We did lose the Magners League final at home so that obviously stings a little bit. You don’t want a repeat of that.

“We had a look at it during the video session and it’s gas because you really do have every game in your own hands. The mistakes we made then almost look childish or schoolboy-like. They wouldn’t have happened now.

“I think the biggest compliment I can pay him (Joe Schmidt) is that I’m 30 going on 31 and I’m still learning new tricks and new ways of doing things.

“That probably reflects in the way we are all playing, in that we are all still learning and even the old guys have new challenges every week.

“It’s enjoyable to be playing and training at the moment. He is a high standards man. You want to hit his standards.

“He reinforces that with you but we are the ones that have to bring it on to the pitch. He is constantly on about standards in everything, not just on the pitch.”

Scott Johnson (Ospreys) – “They don’t come much harder in terms of the Magners League than Leinster away, so we know the size of the challenge we face at the weekend.

“We did pretty well out there last season but there’s no doubting they are a formidable side. It’s not an easy place to go and win.

“Our focus this week has been about ourselves and the areas where we need to improve. After the Scarlets game, it was very much about making sure the players were aware that while the scoreboard told one story, our own analysis of the game told another.

“The reality was, that performance was some way away from where we want to be, and that was backed up by the first 50 minutes against the Blues.

“We are still on that upwards curve, and regardless of the personnel involved on Friday night, the expectation is that we will continue improving.

“January is traditionally a big month for the Ospreys and it’s no different this time, with big games in three different competitions that will define our season.

“The performance against the Blues and the changes we’ve made this weekend mean that certain players have a fantastic opportunity to put their hands up if they want to be involved in some of these big games and big occasions that are coming up.”

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Leinster – Points: Isa Nacewa 113; Tries: Isa Nacewa, Shane Horgan 4 each; Ospreys – Points: Dan Biggar 124; Tries: Richard Fussell 6


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
Friday, April 16, 2010 – Leinster 20 Ospreys 16, the RDS
Saturday, May 29, 2010 – Grand Final – Leinster 12 Ospreys 17, the RDS
Sunday, November 28, 2010 – Ospreys 19 Leinster 15, Liberty Stadium


– Leinster have won their last three matches in all competitions since their 20-13 reversal at Clermont Auvergne on December 12

– The Leinstermen’s only defeat at the RDS in the Magners League since September 2008 was to the Ospreys in last season’s grand final

– The Ospreys’ 27-25 defeat at Cardiff on New Year’s Eve ended a four-match winning run in all competitions

– The Ospreys have won just once on the road since October, beating Connacht 16-15 at the Sportsground in the Magners League on November 19

– The Welshmen have won their last two fixtures with Leinster