Planet Rugby

Preview: Ospreys v Northampton

10th January 2014 10:39

Share:

George North Northampton 2013

In Wales: George North

Northampton have to take maximum points away from Sunday's clash against the Ospreys if they want to progress in this year's Heineken Cup.

After being torn limb from limb at home to Leinster at Franklin's Gardens, the success in Dublin the following Saturday was from another planet.

Saints possess a number of fleet-footed attackers but it's their power game that is so impressive. Big men including Samu Manoa, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and Luther Burrell in the backs all carry hard and consistently make ground. They also suck in defenders, which caused Leinster to work tirelessly at the Aviva Stadium to the point of sheer exhaustion. Victories such as that one are more satisfying than walkovers, no question, especially after Northampton's humiliation the week before.

The early damage to Northampton's hopes for this season in Europe however looks irreversible, unless they take maximum points from their trip to Swansea and do the same again when they will host a disinterested Castres in the final round. That and hoping for a slip up from Leinster, who lead Pool 1 by four points, could give them a chance. As things stand, three teams - the Blues, Saracens and Leicester - are better placed to qualify as a best runner-up.

The Ospreys meanwhile, for no lack of effort, have just lacked the quality of their counterparts in their group.

Ten points off the pace against Leinster and eleven behind Saints when they played at Franklin's Gardens, that's a sizeable gap behind two of Europe's strongest teams.

Defeating a strong Castres team at home is definitely a feather in the cap - they are Top 14 champions after all - but the Ospreys lack enough penetration in the backs to truly worry better teams. Aisea Natoga does look lively on one wing but the threatening Ospreys of yesteryear, including Shane Williams and Tommy Bowe, are now long gone.

Dan Biggar remains an excellent goal kicker and the main source of his side's points at fly-half behind a very experienced pack led by Alun-Wyn Jones. But Northampton have a set of forwards strong enough to overcome what the Ospreys will throw at them on Sunday, regardless of being on the road.

Biggar lines up alongside Rhys Webb behind a strong looking pack, despite the fact tighthead Adam Jones must make do with a place on the replacements bench.

"Sunday is going to be a massive game," said head coach Steve Tandy.

"There's a big, typically English team, who are flying high in the league and Europe, coming to the Liberty and both teams need the win, so it's going to be explosive and physical. I'm sure it'll be a great contest."

Northampton meanwhile go for former Osprey Kahn Fotuali'i at scrum-time ahead of Lee Dickson as they look to keep alive their hopes of making the quarter-finals.

Dylan Hartley captains the side while George North is on the left wing and will go up against Canadian international Jeff Hassler at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea.

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Aisea Natoga, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Lewis, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (capt), 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Ryan Bevington.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Adam Jones, 19 James King, 20 Morgan Allen, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Jonathan Spratt.

Northampton: 15 Tom Collins, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Steve Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Dylan Hartley (capt), 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Glenn Dickson, 23 Fa'atoina Autagavaia.

Date: Sunday, January 13
Kick-off: 12:45 GMT
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: Patrick Pechambert (France), Jean-Luc Rebollal (France)
Television match official: Gilles Cogne (France)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand vs AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Preview
Argentina vs South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Preview
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse vs CastresToulouse vs Castres Preview
Saturday , August 23
Brive vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Toulon vs La Rochelle18:30
Bayonne vs Oyonnax18:30
Bordeaux-Begles vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Montpellier vs Grenoble18:30
Stade Francais vs Lyon20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , August 22
Pumas vs GriquasPumas vs Griquas Preview
Saturday , August 23
Blue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
Western Province vs Lions17:05
Sharks vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Friday , August 22
Waikato vs CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Preview
Hawkes Bay vs TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Preview
Saturday , August 23
Northland vs WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Preview
Counties Manukau vs OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Preview
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu vs Auckland14:35
Bay Of Plenty vs Tasman16:35
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato vs Taranaki19:35
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury vs Northland19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
South Africa 13 - 6 ArgentinaSouth Africa vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Clermont Auvergne 30 - 26 GrenobleClermont Auvergne vs Grenoble Report
Montpellier 16 - 19 Racing Metro ParisMontpellier vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Toulouse 20 - 19 Oyonnax
Bordeaux-Begles 18 - 9 Lyon
Brive 37 - 15 La Rochelle
Castres 22 - 25 Stade Francais
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Lions 60 - 19 Eastern Province KingsLions vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Cheetahs 34 - 27 GriquasCheetahs vs Griquas Report
Western Province 41 - 17 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Otago 28 - 14 North Harbour
Wellington 25 - 37 WaikatoWellington vs Waikato Report
Canterbury 48 - 9 AucklandCanterbury vs Auckland Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 15
Bayonne 15 - 29 ToulonBayonne vs Toulon Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 34 - 17 PumasSharks vs Pumas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Southland 34 - 23 Bay Of Plenty
Thursday , August 14
Taranaki 9 - 9 Counties ManukauTaranaki vs Counties Manukau Report
More ITM Cup results
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 9
Griquas 24 - 31 SharksGriquas vs Sharks Report
Pumas 28 - 21 CheetahsPumas vs Cheetahs Report
Lions 41 - 13 Blue BullsLions vs Blue Bulls Report
Friday , August 8
Eastern Province Kings 16 - 35 Western ProvinceEastern Province Kings vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00