Planet Rugby

Preview: Ospreys v Aironi

05th May 2011 12:57

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Dan Biggar kicking for the Ospreys

Dan Biggar: Two points short of 500

The Ospreys travel to Italy on Friday knowing that anything less than a bonus-point victory over Aironi is likely to exclude them from the play-offs.

The defending champions trail Cardiff - who face the Scarlets - by a single point in fifth place heading into the final round of the regular season.

Jerry Collins is absent due to a one-match suspension after receiving three yellow cards during this season's Magners League. Dan Biggar requires two points to become only the second Ospreys player to reach 500 in the Magners League

"It's gone down to the wire and we are left in a position where we have to go out and give everything on Friday night and hopefully, get our reward," commented Ospreys Head Coach Sean Holley.

"It's important that we concentrate on ourselves, that the boys know their roles and responsibilities, that they carry them out to the best of their abilities and we don't allow ourselves to get distracted by what may be happening elsewhere.

"It's not going to be an easy 80 minutes, they are a very tough nut to crack. Look at their results at home this season and you've seen that they've given some very good teams a close call. Add into the mix that Rowland will, I'm sure, want to take our scalp, and you'll see that we have to be professional and do a job.

"I expect to see champion spirit, and a champion's performance from us. Nothing less than that will be good enough."

Meanwhile, Aironi Head Coach Rowland Phillips has been forced to shuffle his back row, where the suspension of Nick Williams (who has collected his third yellow card of the season) has forced the coaching staff to shift Gareth Krause to number eight.

It will be the final match of the South African's career, as he announced his retirement last month. Josh Sole takes the openside flanker spot, with the young Joshua Furno moving from the second row to the blindside.

The pack is completed by an experienced second row of Internationals Marco Bortolami and Quintin Geldenhuys, while the front row sees Fabio Staibano and Alberto De Marchi at props, with Luigi Ferraro hooking.

"This game represents the opportunity to play against the best team - on paper - of the entire Magners League and one of the best in the European rugby. It's another chance to match against some top players, but also the opportunity to play again a big role in this season", said Phillips.

"What I want to see from my team is the will to show once again how we grow up mentally during the season, staying concentrate for the whole game and using our structures to play a good rugby. First parts of a process we will continue in the next season".

"You look at the Ospreys squad and you can see some of the best players in the world. What amazes me is how they struggled during the season both in the Magners League and in the Heineken Cup, where they failed to qualify for the knock-out stage".

Form: Ospreys have won all nine previous matches they have played against Italian opponents including a 38-6 victory against Aironi at Liberty Stadium in Round Four. Aironi conclude their debut season in the Magners League in search of a second victory to go with their 25-13 home win over Connacht on 26 March. Ospreys, the defending Magners League champions, still have some work to do if they are to make the playoffs. A bonus point win must surely be a minimum requirement but even that may not be enough if other results go against them. Ospreys are without a win in their last four Magners League matches - their poorest run since their own debut season in 2003/04.

The teams:

Aironi: 15 Horacio San Martin, 14 Matteo Pratichetti, 13 Gilberto Pavan, 12 Gabriel Pizarro, 11 Danwel Demas, 10 James Marshall, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Gareth Krause, 7 Josh Sole, 6 Joshua Furno, 5 Quintin Geldenhuys (c), 4 Marco Bortolami, 3 Fabio Staibano, 2 Luigi Ferraro, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Fabio Ongaro, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Luca Redolfini, 19 George Biagi, 20 Nicola Cattina, 21 Pablo Canavosio, 22 Giulio Toniolatti, 23 Riccardo Bocchino.

Ospreys:15 Richard Fussell, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 James Hook, 11 Nikki Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Jonathan Thomas, 7 Marty Holah, 6 Justin Tipuric, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Ryan Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Duncan Jones, 19 Ian Gough, 20 Tom Smith 21 Tom Isaacs, 22 Ashley Beck, 23 Sonny Parker.

Date: Friday, May 6
Venue: Stadio Luigi Zaffanella
Kick-off: 20.05 BST
Referee: Andy Macpherson (SRU)

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