Preview: Ospreys v Dragons

Date published: December 31 2015

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Ospreys Head Coach Steve Tandy has made five changes to his starting XV for their New Year's Day derby with Dragons in Swansea.

In the backline, Jeff Hassler returns to the right wing, after he was a late withdrawal in last weekend's win over Scarlets due to illness. He comes in to the run-on side in place of Eli Walker with Hanno Dirksen switching to the left wing.

The only other change to the backline, sees Sam Davies taking over from Dan Biggar at fly-half. In the forwards, Dan Baker replaces James King at number eight while Aaron Jarvis and Nicky Smith come in for  Dmitri Arhip and Paul James as the starting props.

Despite their win over the Scarlets, Tandy expects a tough assignment against the Dragons.

"It was an important win on Boxing Day but it won't count for much if we don't follow it up with a good performance against the Dragons," he said.

"It's important we recognise that not many teams go to Parc y Scarlets in the PRO12 and win, it was only their second home defeat in two years, so we can be happy with the outcome and the character of the squad, if not some elements of the performance.

"There's plenty to work on this week and that's a good place for us to be in, with the win but knowing where we need to improve. 

"It's a huge month for us in the PRO12 and in Europe, with four home games that we want to use to shape the rest of the season. We've got to back up the Scarlets win over the next couple of weeks. With Leinster home as well next weekend it's a great opportunity for us to make some progress up the table.

"We're expecting a difficult afternoon against the Dragons, as is always the case. They have been in good form, won three from four in December, are doing will in Europe and were really unlucky not to win on Sunday.

"They'll come here full of confidence, so we'll have to be at our best. There's no margin for error now and that adds spice to every game that we play."

Meanwhile, Dragons director of rugby Lyn Jones has also made five changes to his run-on side.

The back three remains untouched as fullback Carl Meyer joins wings Nick Scott and try-scorer Ashton Hewitt. Fly-half Dorian Jones remains unchanged and Sarel Pretorius returns to full fitness to take the place of scrum-half.

The front row sees the return of prop Boris Stankovich, who missed out on last week’s derby clash, as he joins fellow prop Lloyd Fairbrother and skipper Thomas Rhys Thomas.

The second row remains untouched with Matthew Screech and Rynard Landman named. Last week’s PRO12 Man of the Match Nick Crosswell retains his place alongside young flanker Ollie Griffiths and number eight Ed Jackson. 

The replacements bench has four changes made to it is as Phil Price, Brok Harris, Nic Cudd and Charlie Davies join Elliot Dee, Cory Hill. Jason Tovey and Ross Wardle.

Form: Ospreys have won their last four Guinness PRO12 fixtures since their 19-31 reversal in Glasgow on 1st November. Ospreys have not lost to a fellow Welsh region at Liberty Stadium since Dragons were the visitors in October 2010. Dragons' three game winning run in all competitions ended with their single point defeat at home to Cardiff Blues on Sunday. Dragons are one of only three teams to have not won on the road in the Guinness PRO12 this season with their most recent away win being on a trip to Treviso in March. Ospreys have won their last seven encounters with Dragons in the PRO12 since the Men from Gwent were victorious 21-20 at Rodney Parade in January 2012.

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Ben John, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Hanno Dirksen, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Nicky Smith. 
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 James King, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Jonathan Spratt.

Dragons: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Nick Scott, 13 Adam Hughes, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Dorian Jones, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Ed Jackson. 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Nick Crosswell, 5 Rynard Landman, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Thomas Rhys Thomas (c), 1 Boris Stankovich.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Phil Price, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Nic Cudd, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Ross Wardle.

Date: Friday, January 1
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Craig Evans (Wales), Rhys Thomas (Wales)
TMO: Jonathan Mason (Wales)

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