Preview: Ospreys v Leinster

Date published: September 2 2011

Ospreys director of coaching Scott Johnson and his charges are excited about facing Leinster in their PRO12 opener on Friday.

Ospreys director of coaching Scott Johnson and his charges are excited about facing Leinster in their RaboDirect PRO12 opener on Friday.

Although his side are without several first-choice players through injury and international duty, Johnson reckons his side can be competitive against Leinster.

“It's important that we get off to a good start, but we're up against a good team in Leinster, regardless of how many players they will have away at the World Cup,” said Johnson.

“This group of players have come together really well over the summer, they've been diligent, worked hard, and are ready to go. They know their roles, what they've got do and they are desperately keen to do well for the Ospreys.

Johnson said despite being without several key players he has faith that his team will make an impact against Leinster.

“We are particularly proud that given the number of players that are away, we can field a team on Friday night that has 14 Welshmen in the starting line-up. That's a great achievement in the circumstances and something that the region should be proud of.”

Meanwhile, Leinster's New Zealand fly-half Mat Berquist will make his debut at the Liberty Stadium.

Berquist, who was All Blacks pivot Dan Carter's back-up at the Crusaders during this year's Super Rugby tournament, will be joined by John Cooney and Damian Browne who will also play their first matches for the Heineken Cup champions.

The Dublin-based side are also without several players who are on World Cup duty but will still have Isa Nacewa, Richardt Strauss, Luke Fitzgerald and Devin Toner in their starting line-up.

Kevin McLaughlin will make his 50th Leinster appearance and Rhys Ruddock will captain the side.

Form: Ospreys have won just two of their last nine clashes with Leinster, whilst overall the Irishmen have the best record for any visiting side to Liberty Stadium, having handed Ospreys a quarter of their 12 losses at the venue in the competition. The 2009/10 finalists meet in the opening round of RaboDirect PRO12. Ospreys have begun the season at home on four previous occasions and won them all. Ospreys were semi-finalists in 2010/11 despite winning just one of their last six matches: 12-10 at Aironi in round 22. The Welshmen are winless in their last two matches at Liberty Stadium but have never gone three home games in this tournament without victory. Leinster's previous form on the opening round of a new season has seen them gain just one victory since 2002: 23-8 at home to Edinburgh in 2007. The reigning European champions lost last season's final to Munster, but won six of their last seven regular season encounters.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Kristian Phillips, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Hanno Dirksen, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Jonathan Thomas, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Tom Smith, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Cai Griffiths, 2 Mefin Davies, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Ken Dowding, 18 Joe Rees, 19 James King, 20 Morgan Allen, 21 Tom Isaacs, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Sonny Parker.

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Eoin O'Malley, 12 Luke Fitzgerald, 11 David Kearney, 10 Mat Berquist, 9 John Cooney, 8 Rhys Ruddock (c), 7 Dominic Ryan, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Damian Browne, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Jack O'Connell, 19 Mark Flanagan, 20 Leo Auva'a, 21 Cillian Willis, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Brendan Macken.

Date: Friday, September 2
Venue: Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Kick-off: 19:05 (18:05 GMT)
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon