Preview: Ospreys v Biarritz

Date published: November 11 2011

Biarritz welcome a quartet of RWC finalists to the Liberty Stadium for their Heineken Cup opener against the Ospreys on Saturday.

Biarritz welcome back a quartet of Rugby World Cup finalists to the Liberty Stadium for their Heineken Cup opener against the Ospreys.

France loose forward Imanol Harinordoquy and scrum-half Dimitri Yavchvili both started in the 8-7 defeat to New Zealand after leading the French to a semi-final win over Wales a week earlier, while their Biarritz team-mates Fabien Barcella and Damien Traille came off the bench as the All Blacks were pushed all the way in a nailbiter.

The boys in bleu are joined by other returning internationals such as USA wing Taku Ngwenya, who raced the length of the pitch to score a try when the Ospreys and Biarritz last met, along with Pumas centre Marcelo Bosch who wears 13.

The French giants and two-time Heineken Cup finalists visit Ospreylia for the first time since losing 15-10 to Swansea at St Helen's in 2001.

It promises to be an exciting contest with the Ospreys also back to full strength after the Welsh team's return from New Zealand to complement a squad that goes into the Heineken Cup on top of the RaboDirect PRO12 with just the one defeat in the opening eight games.

The Welsh region have won their last 12 home games in Europe since 2007 and are determined to make it 13 when they face a Biarritz side which beat them 29-28 in a dramatic semi-final in San Sebastien in 2010.

But the Basque outfit, who reached the final of the Heineken Cup in 2006 and 2010, will have targeted lifting a trophy which they have come so close to winning but never have.

The Ospreys, who failed to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in four years last term, will want to restore their reputation and become the first Welsh side to lift the Heineken Cup.

RaboDirect PRO12 pace-setters the Ospreys name their strongest available line-up for the clash, with Shane Williams and Tommy Bowe on the wings. International team-mates Alun-Wyn Jones, Huw Bennett and Adam Jones all promptly find themselves back in front of French opposition while Samoan duo George Stowers and Kahn Fotuali'i are also included.

“We haven't had a first-up home game since I have been at the Ospreys, so it's a start that can hopefully bring us points on the board,” said forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys.

“You have to make sure you are rock-solid at home and then build from there. After this game we have a very difficult trip to Treviso – and the days of picking up bonus points from there are gone. It's a tough group.

“It's going to be a huge physical battle. They have one of the biggest packs out there, a great set-piece and they are going to come down here, make this game tight, want Yachvili to be kicking goals and playing in our area of the field. So I'd imagine it would be very tight. We expect them to be as physical and as dangerous as when we played them two years ago.”

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Jonathan Thomas, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 George Stowers, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Huw Bennett, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Ryan Jones, 20 Joe Bearman, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Sonny Parker.

Biarritz: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Taku Ngwenya, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Damien Traille, 11 Iain Balshaw, 10 Julien Peyrelongue, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Raphael Lakafia, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Benoit Guyot, 5 Erik Lund, 4 Jérôme Thion, 3 Sylvain Marconnet, 2 Benoit August, 1 Fabien Barcella.
Replacements: 16 Arnaud Heguy, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 19 Pelu Taele, 20 Florian Faure, 21 Romain Terrain, 22 Benoît Baby, 23 Ilikena Bolakoro.

Date: Saturday, November 12
Kick-off: 15:40
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Referee: Andrew Small (England)