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Magners Preview: Ospreys v Leinster

Magners Preview: Ospreys v Leinster

Round 9 of the Magners League wraps up at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea on Sunday when Leinster set out to avenge their defeat to the Ospreys in last season’s grand final.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Sunday, November 28

OSPREYS (7th) v LEINSTER (5th), Liberty Stadium, 5pm (live TG4/S4C)

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Team News: Experienced lock Leo Cullen will lead the Leinster team for the trip to Swansea on Sunday. He lines out in the second row alongside Ed O’Donoghue who successfully came through his first appearance in two months last weekend.

The 22-year-old Jason Harris-Wright will make his first competitive start for Leinster at hooker in a front row which includes props Heinke van der Merwe and Clint Newland.

Former Ireland Under-20 hooker Harris-Wright had a 40-minute runout against the Newport Gwent Dragons last Saturday and now has five Leinster caps to his name.

Isa Nacewa, who lies in second place in the Magners League top points scorers list this season (80 points), continues at full-back in a back-three completed by Andrew Conway and Shane Horgan, the scorer of two tries in Leinster’s bonus point victory over the Dragons.

In all, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has made five changes to the team that secured that 27-6 win. Conway and Ian Madigan have been added to the back-line, taking over from David Kearney and Shaun Berne on the left wing and at out-half respectively.

Richardt Strauss, Trevor Hogan and Rhys Ruddock make way in the forwards, with Harris-Wright, O’Donoghue and Dominic Ryan getting starting berths.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s clash, recent debutant Newland said that he was pleased to make a winning start to his Leinster career against the Dragons.

“I thought last week’s game went okay. The play around the park was quite quick and the only thing I found to be a bit strange was the scrums. All of the techniques and that are a bit different over here compared to back home,” explained the New Zealander.

“I’m enjoying the Leinster set-up and all the boys have been really good to get on with. The two games in five days will be a test of our resources, but from what I’ve seen I reckon the boys will handle that okay. All of our training has been quite sharp lately.”

Meanwhile, out-half Dan Biggar, hooker Richard Hibbard and lock Ian Gough have been released by the Wales management to play for the Ospreys this weekend.

The selected Ospreys team shows four changes to the side that started the 16-15 victory at Connacht last time out. The two changes in the back-line see Barry Davies return at full-back, with Gareth Owen switching to a wing berth, and Biggar joins Rhys Webb at half-back.

Hibbard replaces Mefin Davies in the front row, with Gough resuming his second row partnership with Ian Evans. The back row combination of Justin Tipuric, Marty Holah and stand-in captain Jerry Collins remains unchanged.

With a number of players either on international duty or ruled out by injury, the 21-year-old prop Joe Rees is standing by to make his Magners League debut as a replacement.

OSPREYS: Barry Davies; Gareth Owen, Sonny Parker, Ashley Beck, Richard Fussell; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Duncan Jones, Richard Hibbard, Craig Mitchell, Ian Gough, Ian Evans, Justin Tipuric, Marty Holah, Jerry Collins (capt).

Replacements: Mefin Davies, Joe Rees, Cai Griffiths, James Goode, Tom Smith, Jamie Nutbrown, Matthew Morgan, Tom Isaacs.

LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa; Shane Horgan, Eoin O’Malley, Fergus McFadden, Andrew Conway; Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss; Heinke van der Merwe, Jason Harris-Wright, Clint Newland, Leo Cullen (capt), Ed O’Donoghue, Dominic Ryan, Shane Jennings, Stephen Keogh.

Replacements: Tom Sexton, Jack McGrath, Mike Ross, Eoin Sheriff, Rhys Ruddock, Paul O’Donohoe, Ian McKinley, David Kearney.

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Tim Hayes, Jon Mason (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Tony Rowlands (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ospreys to win: 4/7; Draw: 19/1; Leinster to win: 11/8

Pre-Match Quotes: Joe Schmidt (Leinster) – “We’re expecting an even tougher test this weekend. The Ospreys got a win against Connacht in the last minute which was obviously a pretty good performance considering Connacht weren’t too far from (being) full strength.

“We found them a very tough nut to crack when we were in Galway a few weeks ago so, for the Ospreys to have done that is a very good effort. They’ve got some real talent in their young guys whom they have recently given game-time in the LV= Cup so they might add something that we don’t know so much about.

“The last few wins are not just about (being good for) confidence. It’s about points on the table. Ulster went away and got a really good win against Cardiff and that allowed them to stay in front of us.

“The Ospreys got their win in Connacht. So if you’re not winning, then you’re going to be very quickly behind the eight ball and chasing. We want to try and get some kind of established break and make it into the top-four.

“The tempo that the Ospreys play with makes them dangerous. In the loose forwards they have the likes of Jerry Collins and Marty Holah who are two really formidable players. They also have real talent out wide. (Richard) Fussell has been playing well for them.

“Nikki Walker is a big strong athletic fella and even though he was called up by Scotland, I’m not sure where he sits (in terms of availability) because he did play a couple of weeks ago against the Dragons when Scotland were playing.

“Their half-backs were really impressive in their win over Leicester in the LV= Cup. To do that against formidable opponents was pretty impressive in tough conditions. They scored six tries and their new out-half had a hand in at least four of those six tries.”

Scott Johnson (Ospreys) – “After a tough challenge in Connacht last weekend, it doesn’t get any easier on Sunday. We’ve got a few more options available to us with Dan (Biggar), Richard (Hibbard) and Ian (Gough) coming back from Wales duty, but by and large, we are looking at the same group of players who’ve served us well over the last month.

“Players, combinations and teams need time on the paddock together and this group have really grown over the last few games, it’s been good to see them coming together as a team.

“We’ve planned for this period, knowing that we would need to utilise our squad fully when the international boys are away. Of course we take great pride in developing players for the national team, but the success we’ve had brings with it challenges and what can at times be difficult circumstances.

“What I’ve found really pleasing in this period has been the attitude of the senior players in the group who’ve shown the younger players stepping up what is expected, showing good leadership and providing guidance on and off the pitch.

“It’s going to be difficult again on Sunday against a Leinster side that has been on a very good run recently. Like us they will be without a lot of players, but they’ve also worked hard to build their squad and the result against the Dragons last weekend is a clear indication of the quality they have available.

“It’ll be a real benchmark for this group of players, to see where they are at the moment and we’re all really looking forward to it.”

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Ospreys – Points: Dan Biggar 58; Tries: Richard Fussell, Nikki Walker 4 each; Leinster – Points: Isa Nacewa 80; Tries: Isa Nacewa 3


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
Friday, April 16, 2010 – Leinster 20 Ospreys 16, the RDS
Saturday, May 29, 2010 – Grand Final – Leinster 12 Ospreys 17, the RDS


– This is the first meeting between these two teams since last season’s Magners League grand final at the RDS, which the Ospreys won 17-12

– The Ospreys have won their last two games in all competitions but lost 21-16 to the Newport Gwent Dragons the last time they played at the Liberty Stadium

– Amazingly, the last seven games the Ospreys have played against Irish opponents have all been played in Ireland

– Leinster have won their last six matches in all competitions since their 32-24 reversal in Edinburgh on September 24

– The Leinstermen’s only defeat in their last eight encounters with Welsh teams was in the grand final last May

– That Ospreys’ victory ended a six-match winning run for Leinster over the Welsh region. Leinster have won on their last three visits to the Liberty Stadium