Preview: Leinster v Ospreys

Date published: November 28 2014

Leinster coach Matt O’Connor has made six changes to his team for Saturday’s Pro12 clash with the Ospreys at the RDS.

Leinster coach Matt O’Connor has made six changes to his team for Saturday’s Pro12 clash with the Ospreys at the RDS.

It is an even split with three changes in the backs and three in the pack but significantly Fergus McFadden makes a welcome return having injured his ankle against Munster in October. He starts at outside centre.

Inside him is Ian Madigan who had an impressive Test Series with Ireland and is only three points short of 600 points for Leinster in what will be his 116th appearance since his debut in May 2009.

There is a change in the half backs with Eoin Reddan coming in at nine, and as captain, with Jimmy Gopperth named at ten.

With Richardt Strauss and Kevin McLaughlin ruled out through injury, their replacements last weekend against Treviso start in their place. Bryan Byrne, who scored his first ever Leinster senior try within minutes of his introduction, starts at hooker.

Jordi Murphy makes his second appearance of the season having shown no ill effects after his return from shoulder surgery.

Meanwhile, Ospreys are missing no less than 19 players due to international duty or injury. Gareth Thomas and Dafydd Howells will make their PRO12 debuts if they come off the bench

“As frustrating as it was against Ulster there were plenty of positives to take from the game, not least the endeavour and spirit that we showed in bucketloads in the second half,” said Head Coach Steve Tandy.

“To have worked our way back into it from the position we were in at half-time, to be in with a real chance of not just taking a bonus point but actually winning it, showed that we are developing a group that has real character.

“We’ll definitely need to see that character and resolve again on Saturday, from the very first whistle right to the end. We’re up against it, circumstances with the fourth international mean that we have to go to one of the toughest places in European rugby without some key figures while they could have all their Ireland contingent available on the back of a great autumn for them. Throw in some injuries, with more boys ruled out of action this week, and you can see the size of the challenge we’re facing.

“We’re up for it though. It’s the nature of the sport that players will always be missing with injury and it opens up opportunities for others to come in and show what they can do. We know it’s going to be a hard night at the office but the boys are all up for it and have prepared really well this week.”

Form: Leinster are unbeaten in their last five matches in all tournaments since tripping up at home to Munster in round 5 of the Guinness PRO12 at the Aviva Stadium. The Leinstermen have won their last 17 matches at the RDS Arena in all tournaments since a 29-all draw with the Ospreys in PRO12 in September 2013 (Matt O’Connor’s first home game in charge), whilst their only defeat at the venue since May 2012 was inflicted by Ulster on 30th March 2013. Ospreys only win in their last five contests in all tournaments was 26-11 at home to Connacht in round 7 of the Guinness PRO12, however their loss in Belfast on Friday was their first reversal of the 2014/15 campaign. The Welshmen have won only two games away at Irish provinces since February 2013: at Connacht in September 2013 and at Munster in September 2014. The two sides met on four occasions last season with Leinster taking both encounters in the European Cup but Ospreys securing a win and a draw in the PRO12. Ospreys have played nine previous PRO12 matches at the RDS Arena, winning three, drawing one and losing five.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Darragh Fanning, 13 Fergus McFadden, 12 Ian Madigan, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Eoin Reddan (c), 8 Jack Conan, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Mike McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Bryan Byrne, 1 Michael Bent.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Noel Reid

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Aisea Natoga, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Hanno Dirksen, 11 Tom Grabham, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Martin Roberts, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Joe Bearman, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Lloyd Peers (c), 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Marc Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Cai Griffiths, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Ieuan Jones, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Josh Matavesi, 23 Dafydd Howells.

Date: Saturday, November 29
Kick-off: 17:15 GMT
Venue: RDS
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Mark Patton (Ireland), Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland)
Television match official: Alan Rogan (Ireland)
Assessor: Michael Carroll (Ireland)