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Magners Preview: Ospreys v Ulster

Magners Preview: Ospreys v Ulster

Boosted by their Heineken Cup heroics, Ulster will hope to climb back up the Magners League table over the coming weeks. First up is a trip to Swansea to take on defending champions, the Ospreys.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Sunday, February 13

OSPREYS (5th) v ULSTER (6th), Liberty Stadium, 5.10pm (live S4C/BBC Northern Ireland – red button)

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Team News: Ulster head coach Brian McLaughlin has finalised his team and replacements for their Magners League clash with the Ospreys in Swansea.

Youngster Craig Gilroy will make his fourth appearance for Ulster when he starts on the right wing. Gilroy has notched an impressive five tries in his first three games, and dotted down twice for the Ireland Under-20s in Italy last week.

With Paddy Wallace on Six Nations duty with ireland, Ian Whitten gets a chance to partner the in-form Nevin Spence at centre. Ruan Pienaar and Ian Humphreys continue their half-back partnership.

With both Rory Best and Tom Court unavailable due to international commitments, Nigel Brady, Bryan Young and Declan Fitzpatrick complete the province’s front row.

Tim Barker comes in to partner captain Johann Muller in the second row, with Dan Tuohy sidelined by a quad tear.

Chris Henry and Willie Faloon, who return from O2 Ireland Wolfhounds duty, join Pedrie Wannenburg in a robust back row combination.

Meanwhile, Wales full-back Tom Prydie has been selected to make his first Magners League start for the Ospreys against Ulster.

Prydie joins Richard Fussell, the region’s top try scorer in this season’s league, and South African-born teenager Hanno Dirksen in a new-look back-three.

Dirksen, another newcomer to the league, scored a try in the Ospreys’ recent LV= Cup win over Cardiff.

The Ospreys are missing 17 players who are away on international duty with the Wales, Scotland, Wales Under-20 and Wales Sevens squad. A further seven are out injured, including former Ulster winger Tommy Bowe.

But Scott Johnson and Sean Holley still have a experienced spine to their team, with Wales internationals Sonny Parker, Dan Biggar, Duncan Jones, Huw Bennett, Ian Gough, Ian Evans and two former All Blacks Jerry Collins and Marty Holah in the mix.

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, Marty Holah, Jerry Collins (capt).

Replacements: Mefin Davies, Ryan Bevington, Craig Cross, James King, Justin Tipuric, Jamie Nutbrown, Gareth Owen, Tom Isaacs.

ULSTER: Adam D’Arcy; Craig Gilroy, Nevin Spence, Ian Whitten, Simon Danielli; Ian Humphreys, Ruan Pienaar; Bryan Young, Nigel Brady, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (capt), Tim Barker, Chris Henry, Willie Faloon, Pedrie Wannenburg;

Replacements: Andi Kyriacou, Jerry Cronin, Alan Whitten, Ryan Caldwell, Thomas Anderson, Paul Marshall, Luke Marshall, David McIlwaine.

Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: David Jones, Greg Morgan (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Huw Lewis (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ospreys to win: 8/15; Draw: 20/1; Ulster to win: 6/4

Pre-Match Quotes: Ian Humphreys (Ulster) – “The Ospreys are a good team. Dan Biggar will be playing number 10 and he runs the show. In Marty Holah and Jerry Collins they have a couple of class players in the pack.

“They are like us, they have a big squad and international call-ups really don’t affect them.

“We know it is going to be tough, but we have plenty of confidence, we have won a lot of our games recently and even the tight games we are managing to pull through now, which we might have lost in the past.

“The confidence is there and the leadership that we have got through the foreigners and just the experience of our local lads is giving us the confidence for the big games.

“In the past few years, maybe our team was over reliant on the likes of (Stephen) Ferris, Best and Wallace, but now with the South Africans brought in and the experience the other players are starting to get, it’s not a big blow to us.

“The fact we lose (Andrew) Trimble and can bring in Craig Gilroy, who has scored five tries in three games, is not the worst.

“These are the times we target to get a lot of points because we have invested heavily in our foreigners, so they would be available for this kind of time period.

“It’s important that they play well and there is no doubt they will. We have a strong squad now and the international call-ups don’t hurt us as much as in the past.”

Jonathan Humphreys (Ospreys) – “The last few weeks and the LV= Cup has been a great experience for the Ospreys as an organisation, and undoubtedly, we will be stronger for it.

“A very young group of players did exceptionally well to record some good wins and it definitely bodes well for the future, while the young coaches involved have also benefited from the experience.

“There’ll be a reliance on a lot of these younger players over the next four Magners League games, and you can’t fail to be excited by the potential we have on display. These boys have got to continue fronting up.

“We are targeting becoming the first team to retain the Magners League title, and to do that there’s a lot of work ahead.

“We need the likes of Tom Prydie, Hanno Dirksen, Rhys Webb, Craig Cross, James King and Justin Tipuric who are involved on Sunday to really step up.

“And hat’s not counting the likes of Dan Biggar and Ryan Bevington, who themselves are still very young despite the experience they have personally.”

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Ospreys – Points: Dan Biggar 129; Tries: Richard Fussell 6; Ulster – Points: Niall O’Connor 59; Tries: Craig Gilroy 5


Friday, March 28, 2008 – Ospreys 32 Ulster 7, Liberty Stadium
Saturday, September 27, 2008 – Ospreys 43 Ulster 0, Liberty Stadium
Friday, April 3, 2009 – Ulster 13 Ospreys 16, Ravenhill
Saturday, September 12, 2009 – Ospreys 16 Ulster 20, Liberty Stadium
Tuesday, April 13, 2010 – Ulster 27 Ospreys 38, Ravenhill
Friday, September 3, 2010 – Ulster 27 Ospreys 26, Ravenhill


– The Ospreys have lost their last two games in the Magners League, but are unbeaten at home in all competitions since the Dragons visited the Liberty Stadium in the Magners League in October and won 21-16

– Ulster have won their last three matches in all competitions since their 35-10 defeat at Munster in the Magners League on New Year’s Day

– That reversal represents the Ulstermen’s only loss on the road in their last five trips

– Ulster have won two of their last three games against the Ospreys, and have been victorious on two of their previous six visits to the Liberty Stadium