Preview: Leinster v Ospreys

Date published: March 22 2012

Brian O'Driscoll will make his much-awaited return to the Leinster starting XV against the Ospreys in Friday's Pro12 clash at the RDS.

Brian O'Driscoll will make his much-awaited return to the Leinster starting XV against the Ospreys in Friday's Pro12 clash at the RDS.

O'Driscoll will make his first appearance for the province after making significant progress in recent weeks following injury and he will partner fellow Ireland international Fergus McFadden in midfield.

Up front, Leo Cullen will captain the side for the first time since January after recovering from Achilles surgery and he will lock down with All Black World Cup winner Brad Thorn, who makes his debut after signing a short-term deal with the province recently.

Isaac Boss links up with Ian Madigan in the half-back combination with David Kearney forming a lively back three alongside Luke Fitzgerald – who is set to make his 99th provincial appearance – and full-back Isa Nacewa.

Rhys Ruddock joins fellow Leinster Academy graduate Dominic Ryan as well as number eight Leo Auva'a in the back-row.

Sean Cronin is one of eight Irish qualified players named on the bench including the likes of Kevin McLaughlin and Eoin O'Malley.

Meanwhile, Ian Evans will make his 100th Ospreys appearance if he comes off the bench.

“It's good to be able to welcome back our internationals on the back of their Grand Slam success, and we'll be looking for them to bring that buzz back with them to the region,” said Ospreys Head Coach Steve Tandy.

“We're proud of what they've achieved with Wales, to have 11 boys involved in the Grand Slam is something special, but it's important now that everyone focuses on the remaining five games of the regular season and the battle for the play-offs.

“Leinster away is always a big ask. Their home record in this competition speaks for itself so we know what to expect out there. But, we've won there before and there are plenty of players in this group with that experience to fall back on so although we are still a pretty young group, we believe in each other and our own ability.

“After a disappointing performance last time out it's important that we show the right attitude. It's really tight in and around the play-off spots and things are likely to change after every weekend now, so we just have to go out and do what we need to do and not worry about anything else.”

Form: Leinster's incredible unbeaten run continues and now stands at 20 matches in all competitions – comfortably the best run by any top-flight Irish side since the game turned professional in 1995. The Leinstermen have not lost since Glasgow visited the RDS in the RaboDirect PRO12 on 17 September, and won 23-19. Ospreys have slipped to back to back defeats against Ulster and Glasgow but have not lost three in a row in the competition since May 2008. Ospreys 14-15 defeat in Ulster on 24 February was their first loss to an Irish province this season. Leinster have won just one of their last four encounters with Ospreys: 15-10 at the RDS in this equivalent fixture last season.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 David Kearney, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Fergus McFadden, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Leo Auva'a, 7 Dominic Ryan, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Brad Thorn, 4 Leo Cullen (c), 3 Nathan White, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Damian Browne, 20 Kevin McLaughlin, 21 John Cooney, 22 Eoin O'Malley, 23 Fionn Carr.

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 George Stowers, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Tom Smith, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Ryan Jones, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Ian Evans, 20 James King, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Tom Isaacs.

Date: Friday, March 23
Venue: RDS Dublin
Kick-off: 19.05
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)