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Preview: Ospreys v Cardiff Blues

31st December 2009 12:58

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Lee Byrne Tigers

Starter: Lee Byrne

The Ospreys will be looking to cement their position at the right end of the Magners League table with a derby victory over Cardiff Blues this Friday.

Following on from their Boxing Day exploits again the Scarlets, the Liberty Stadium outfit meet an improving Blues on New Year's Day, with competition points beginning to become vital as the 2010 play-off system approaches.

And Director of Coaching Scott Johnson is refusing to shirk the task that lies ahead of his star-studded side, stating that their visitors have the quality to beat any team on their day.

"With another massive derby match coming up straight away, it's the perfect chance for us to work on the areas of concern that we have after the Scarlets game, and to focus on taking us up to the next level," he said.

"We realise the size of the challenge on Friday if we are going to make it two wins from two in the derbies. Make no mistake about it, we are going up against a very good side.

"The Blues are a team packed with quality and experience, and with 10 to call upon in their squad they probably have more Lions available than any other side in the Magners League with is an indication of the strength in depth they have.

"They may not have got the results that they would have hoped for this season so far, but the quality in the squad speaks for itself. And after a good win on Sunday night, they will approach Friday's game with confidence.

"It's going to be another great occasion, just like Boxing Day was, with a big crowd and a great atmosphere. It kicks off an important month for the Ospreys, and we are all excited about what lies in store. We know that we have to get the performance right, starting with Friday."

Meanwhile, the Blues picked up a number of injuries in the victory over the Dragons and several key men are subsequently not available for selection.

Martyn Williams has had an injection in his shoulder after the Dragons match and is missing for the Ospreys match.

Jamie Roberts suffered a bang to his head against the Dragons and is out while Andy Powell misses the match due to family reasons.

Deiniol Jones is suffering with a minor neck injury picked up playing against Toulouse away and not available and finally Leigh Halfpenny picked up a minor knee injury against Toulouse and is having a scan this week. He should be fit for the trip to Edinburgh.

Form: The Blues are going for a first season's double over Ospreys since 2005/06, but have won just once before on Ospreys soil: 28-9 at Liberty Stadium on 22 December 2005. Ospreys (along with Glasgow) are the best team in the Magners League on current form, with each team gaining 19 points from their last six matches. Ospreys have won their last four games in all competitions, whilst their only defeat to a fellow Welsh region in their last six such encounters was 12-20 at today's opponents Cardiff Blues on 24 October. Cardiff Blues have won three of their last four matches in all competitions. The Blues' most recent away victory in the Magners League was 11-9 at Ulster on 24 April. Cardiff Blues have won all three games they have played against fellow Welsh sides this season.

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Sonny Parker, 12 Andrew Bishop, 11 Nikki Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Ryan Jones (capt), 7 Marty Holah, 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Jonathan Thomas, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 Cai Griffiths, 18 Ian Evans, 19 Filo Tiatia, 20 Jamie Nutbrown, 21 Jonathan Spratt, 22 Gareth Owen.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Richard Mustoe, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Tom Shanklin, 11 Tom James, 10 Sam Norton-Knight, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Xavier Rush, 7 Robin Sowden-Taylor, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Scott Morgan, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Gary Powell, 2 T Rhys Thomas, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c).
Replacements: 16 Gareth Williams, 17 Taufa'au Filise, 18 Paul Tito, 19 Ben White, 20 Gareth Cooper, 21 Ceri Sweeney, 22 Gareth Thomas.

Date: Friday, January 1
Kick-off: 17:15 GMT
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Referee: James Jones (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Hugh Watkins (WRU), Jon Mason (WRU)
TMO: Derek Bevan (WRU)

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