Preview: Ospreys v Dragons

Date published: October 28 2016

Ospreys have named their team to play the Dragons at the Liberty Stadium in their PRO12 derby fixture on Saturday.

They are missing Dan Biggar and Sam Davies so Josh Matavesi is at fly-half alongside Tom Habberfield, with Ashley Beck and Ben John in midfield.

"We've had a good couple of weeks in Europe, backing up the win over the Blues in our last PRO12 game with good performances and bonus point victories against Newcastle and Lyon," head coach Steve Tandy said.

"We know that Saturday is going to be different challenge altogether though and we've had to refocus as a group and prepare for this thoroughly. Our development pathway keeps on producing young talent and we are immensely proud of what we do, continually leading the way in terms of players going through to the national squad. The consequences of that success are clear, and we realise that we hardest hit of all four regions again this weekend. That's a fact of life that we are used to now, we have to prepare for it over the course of a season and deal with it. Until the season structure changes, there's nothing we can do about it so we have to front up, as the Ospreys do.

"We've talked about growing squad depth and we've seen evidence of that this season," Tandy added.

"We've got to go to the next level on Saturday against a side that hasn't been so badly hit, but it's exciting. When you look at the young talent that will be pulling on the shirt this weekend, supplemented by some huge experience, it's a good blend and we are looking forward to the game.

"It's a derby match, regardless of who is out there, so it's going to be tough, it'll be physical, and the supporters will no doubt help to create a pretty special atmosphere. We are playing at 3 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon as well, which is a rarity in itself, so it should be a good occasion for everyone."

Meanwhile, Wales international Tavis Knoyle will make his first start for the Dragons this weekend.

The newly signed scrum-half will make his first start for the Dragons after making his debut off the bench in the European Rugby Challenge Cup in Russia last weekend.

Scrum-half Knoyle is joined in the half-backs alongside experienced fly-half Nick Macleod. The centre partnership remains unchanged as Jack Dixon and Adam Warren retain their positions, whilst there is a change in the back three at full-back as Tom Prydie steps in alongside wings Pat Howard and Adam Warren.

The front row is all change as hooker Thomas Rhys Thomas returns to the starting XV alongside props Sam Hobbs and Brok Harris. The second row is Nick Crosswell and Rynard Landman, whilst the back-row sees skipper Lewis Evans return with Nic Cudd keeping his place at flanker and Ed Jackson returning to number eight.

The replacements bench sees Rhys Buckley, Phil Price, Lloyd Fairbrother, Ollie Griffiths and Sarel Pretorius join Matthew Screech, Geraint Rhys Jones and Ashton Hewitt.

Form: Ospreys have won their last three matches, the most recent two taking them to the top of their pool in the European Challenge Cup. They have won all four home games at Liberty Stadium this season in all tournaments, tallying 31 tries and conceding just five. Ospreys only defeat in their last nine encounters with fellow Welsh regions was 16-25 at home to Scarlets in March. Newport Gwent Dragons’ only victory in their last six matches was 37-16 at home to Brive in the European Challenge Cup. The Dragons have lost their last four PRO12 encounters since beating Zebre at Rodney Parade in round 2. They have not won away from home in the Championship since a trip to Treviso in March 2015. Their most recent success over a fellow Welsh region in the PRO12 came on a trip to Cardiff on Boxing Day 2014. Ospreys have won their last nine fixtures against the Dragons since their neighbours to the east won by a single point at Rodney Parade on 6 January 2012. Dragons’ only previous victory at Liberty Stadium was 21-16 in October 2010.

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Keelan Giles, 13 Ben John, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Josh Matavesi, 9 Tom Habberfield (c), 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Paul James
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Ma'afu Fia, 19 Rob McCusker, 20 Scott Otten, 21 Brendon Leonard, 22 Jonathan Spratt, 23 Dafydd Howells

Dragons: 15 Tom Prydie, 14 Pat Howard, 13 Sam Beard, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Adam Warren, 10 Nick Macloed, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Ed Jackson, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Lewis Evans (c), 5 Rynard Landman, 4 Nick Crosswell, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Thomas Rhys Thomas, 1 Sam Hobbs
Replacements: 16 Rhys Buckley, 17 Phil Price, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Ollie Griffiths, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Geraint Rhys Jones, 23 Ashton Hewitt

Date: Saturday, October 29 
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Time: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT) 
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales) 
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies, Robert Price (both Wales)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)