Connacht suffered a 16-15 defeat when they met the Ospreys earlier in the season. On current form and with the Ospreys missing a number of players due to injury and international duty, the westerners are more than capable of turning the tables in Swansea.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Sunday, February 27
OSPREYS (5th) v CONNACHT (10th), Liberty Stadium, 2.30pm
Team News: Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has announced his starting line-up and replacement for Sunday’s Magners League clash with the Ospreys.
There is just one change to the team that beat Glasgow Warriors at the Sportsground last time out. Hooker Adrian Flavin replaces Sean Cronin, who is on duty with Ireland this weekend.
Brian Tuohy, Connacht’s two-try hero against Glasgow, and flanker Andrew Browne have both recovered from slight knocks to take their places in the side.
The province’s replacements bench includes Connacht Academy hooker Dermot Murphy and fit-again centre Keith Matthews.
Connacht have won their last four games in all competitions, including first ever back-to-back wins over Glasgow Warriors last weedend. That victory helped Connacht leapfrog the Scottish outfit in the Magners League table.
Meanwhile, the Ospreys management have made two enforced changes to the side that saw off Benetton Treviso for a bonus point 34-18 win last weekend.
With Tommy Bowe and Nikki Walker on duty with Ireland and Scotland respectively, teenage wingers Tom Prydie and Hanno Dirksen will get another chance to impress.
Wales centre Andrew Bishop is set to make his return from the ankle injury he sustained against Cardiff on New Year’s Eve. He is listed as a replacements.
The reigning league champions are missing 16 players due to international duty, and the likes of Marty Holah (rib), Adam Jones (elbow), Barry Davies (groin) and Gareth Owen (knee) are currently out injured.
OSPREYS: Richard Fussell; Tom Prydie, Sonny Parker, Ashley Beck, Hanno Dirksen; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Duncan Jones, Huw Bennett, Cai Griffiths, Ian Gough, Ian Evans, Tom Smith, Justin Tipuric (capt), Jerry Collins.
Replacements: Mefin Davies, Ryan Bevington, Craig Cross, Andy Lloyd, James King, Tom Isaacs, Dai Flanagan, Andrew Bishop.
CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Brian Tuohy, Niva Ta’auso, Troy Nathan, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, Andrew Browne, Johnny O’Connor (capt), Ray Ofisa.
Replacements: Dermot Murphy, Ronan Loughney, Rodney Ah You, Bernie Upton, Mike McComish, Cillian Willis, Miah Nikora, Keith Matthews.
Referee: Stefano Penne (Italy)
Assistant Referees: David Bodilly, Alan Jenkins (both Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ospreys to win: 2/9; Draw: 20/1; Connacht to win: 3/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “We are going (to Swansea) with the full intention of imposing our game on the Ospreys.
“Yes, it will be difficult because it’s a difficult place to go to, and it will be physically demanding, but we are fully committed to winning the game.
“We have eight more games and we are going for it 100%. It is not a case of resting personnel, it is all hands to the pump for the next eight weeks.
“We now know if we play our brand of rugby, maintain possession and have confidence to hold onto the ball, we can ask questions of defences. Conversely, we have to stop defending for long periods of time.
“Against Glasgow we got away with it, but you can’t go to the Ospreys and expect to give them all that ball and give away blank. It’s not going to happen, so it is an area we have to improve on.”
Scott Johnson (Ospreys) – “Connacht have always been a tough nut to crack, and that’ll definitely be the case this weekend.
“They don’t get too many distractions from internationals, and they’ve definitely evolved their game this season. They are playing an attacking game which is getting them rewards on the pitch. Just look at their recent results.
“It should be a great game of footy, we’ve been performing well ourselves with the current squad of players coming on well over the last month.
“I think we’ll need to lift it another level again come Sunday, but it’s going to be a really good test for these youngsters and we’re really looking forward to it.
“It’s a really exciting couple of months for the Ospreys. We are trying to build something special here and the kids that most people are seeing for the first time have a big part to play in that, and in our future.
“What we’ve seen from over the last month has been very encouraging. I’d hope that the supporters can recognise this, really identify with what these kids are doing and get behind them.
“It’s important that they continue progressing, and this team has got an opportunity over the next two weekends to really cement the Ospreys’ place in the top-four.”
Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Ospreys – Points: Dan Biggar 156; Tries: Nikki Walker 7; Connacht – Points: Ian Keatley 147; Tries: Fionn Carr 5
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, May 9, 2008 – Connacht 24 Ospreys 20, the Sportsground
Friday, September 5, 2008 – Connacht 3 Ospreys 16, the Sportsground
Sunday, February 22, 2009 – Ospreys 22 Connacht 10, Liberty Stadium
Friday, September 4, 2009 – Connacht 12 Ospreys 19, the Sportsground
Sunday, February 21, 2010 – Ospreys 19 Connacht 17, Liberty Stadium
Friday, November 19, 2010 – Connacht 15 Ospreys 16, the Sportsground
– The Ospreys have won their last five matches in all competitions since their 24-12 reversal at London Irish in the Heineken Cup on January 16
– The Ospreys have not lost at home to a visiting team from outside of Wales in the Magners League since Leinster visited the Liberty Stadium in September 2009
– Connacht have won their last four games in all competitions, representing their best run since the 2003/04 season
– The westerners’ only victory in their last 25 away matches in the league was a 19-17 success at Glasgow last September
– The Ospreys have won their last five encounters with Connacht, who have not won on Ospreys soil since a 10-9 victory at the Gnoll in November 2004