Preview: Ospreys v Leinster

Date published: April 10 2014

Leinster coach Matt O'Connor has named a very strong side as they travel to the Liberty Stadium to face the Ospreys in the Pro12.

Leinster have named a very strong side as they travel to the Liberty Stadium to face the Ospreys in the Pro12 on Friday.

This is the fourth time the sides will have met this season, but with Leinster failing to win in any of their previous three visits to the Liberty Stadium in the PRO12, coach Matt O'Connor has selected a strong team as they try to secure top spot.

A number of Leinster players are nursing bumps and bruises from the game in Toulon last weekend and with that in mind there are a number of changes in personnel.

The only serious injury was to Fergus McFadden who limped off in the first half in the Stade Felix Mayol. The knee injury is not as bad as initially thought and the medial strain suffered is likely to keep him out for a few weeks at most. Zane Kirchner, who replaced him on Sunday, also replaces him here from the start.

Noel Reid comes in at 12, with Gordon D'Arcy moving outside the young Clontarf man. Reid starred for the Leinster 'A' team last Friday scoring a try as they comfortably overcame Munster 'A' in the Quarter-Final of the British and Irish Cup by 47-15.

The final change in the back line sees Isaac Boss start at nine with Eoin Reddan making way. Luke McGrath is selected as the back-up scrum-half for the trip to the Liberty Stadium.

There are four changes to the pack with Sean Cronin, Martin Moore, Leo Cullen and Kevin McLaughlin coming in from the start.

Leo Cullen captains the side from the second-row.

There is plenty of experience on the bench with Mike Ross and Devin Toner among the options available to Matt O'Connor while there is a welcome return from injury for Darragh Fanning and Collie O'Shea.

“We were relatively lucky last week in that most of the blokes came through the game with only bumps and bruises so we are able to keep a lot of the combinations together from last week. That will help us in terms of our execution and we will need a better all-round performance against a quality Ospreys side,” said coach O'Connor.

Meanwhile, Richard Fussell makes his 100th appearance for the Ospreys.

“It's do or die for us over the next four games now. We have to put in consistent top level performances between now and the end of the season if we are going to secure a play-off spot,” said head coach Steve Tandy.

“We were extremely disappointed with the result in Glasgow, which has left us playing catch-up, but the attitude from the entire squad has been first class since then and the boys are really looking forward to the challenge ahead.

“It's crucial that we get the performance right on Friday night. Do that, and the rest will fall into place. We know that Glasgow are now favourites for the fourth spot, but we won't be giving up. We've got to keep on going, maintaining pressure on the teams above us in case they slip up. The top four have all got to play each other between now and the end of the season so we have to make sure that if results go our way, we can take advantage.

“This is a young group, with a splash of experience, and they have a very bright future in front of them. We've seen already what they can do and the way we are attempting to develop our game. We need to find more consistency week in, week out, and that will come with experience as they grow. I'm really excited about the future for the Ospreys, but we've got to deliver now, not next month or next season. We are at the time of the season when there is no margin for error.”

Form: Ospreys' only victory in their last four RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures was 34-9 over Cardiff Blues at Liberty Stadium in Round 17. Ospreys have won just one of their last eleven contests with Irish provinces in all tournaments: 43-26 over Connacht in Galway on 28th September. Leinster have won their last eight PRO12 matches since their 6-11 reversal to Edinburgh at Murrayfield on 20th December. The Leinstermen are unbeaten in their last 14 fixtures with Welsh regions in all tournaments. The two sides have met on three occasions this season with Leinster winning home and away in the European Cup, but sharing a 29-all draw at the RDS in round 2 of the PRO12. Ospreys have won their last three games against Leinster at the Liberty Stadium in the PRO12.

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Aisea Natoga, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Joe Bearman, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones (c), 4 Ryan Jones, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Adam Jones, 19 James King, 20 Morgan Allen, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Hanno Dirksen.

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Zane Kirchner, 13 Gordon D'Arcy, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip , 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Leo Cullen (c), 3 Martin Moore, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Michael Bent, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Collie O'Shea, 23 Darragh Fanning.

Date: Friday, April 11
Kick-off: 19:05 BST
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Jon Mason (Wales)