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Preview: Ospreys v Ulster

07th September 2012 11:42

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Darren Cave Rob Hawkins

At 13 for Ulster: Darren Cave

The Ospreys will be looking to bounce back from defeat in Italy last week in Saturday's PRO12 clash with Ulster at Liberty Stadium.

"It's going to be a tough game against a quality team that has really grown over the last couple of years as seen by their Heineken Cup run last season that saw them go all the way to the final, said Ospreys backs coach Gruff Rees.

"Brian McLaughlin did a great job and Mark Anscombe their new coach is looking to really build on that this year with some quality signings to enhance an already strong squad.

"For us it's a great game to kick-off at home and we'll be expecting a big crowd on a lovely evening so it should be great occasion. We'll want to do well, to make sure we send all our season-ticket holders home happy, but in order to do that we'll have to make big improvements to our discipline and our attention to details from where we were last Friday in Treviso.

"We need to tighten up and find a little bit more composure, while keeping the right balance to ensure that we are always in control of ourselves. That's an area where we let ourselves down in the first half last time.

"We've made a few changes for this game, changes we were always going to make in order to allow players to have a fair chance to stake a claim for a place in the opening weeks of the season. It's up to those coming in to put their hands up now and show that they deserve a chance to retain the jersey, but what it will do is help to ensure everything stays competitive."

Meanwhile, Ulster coach Mark Anscombe has continued to rotate his squad with Declan Fitzpatrick, Niall O'Connor and Darren Cave all coming into the starting XV.

The Ulster coach has also been boosted by the return of Ireland internationals Andrew Trimble and Stephen Ferris who are named on a vastly experienced replacements bench.

The only change up front sees Fitzpatrick replace John Afoa at tighthead prop, where he is joined in the front-row by hooker Rob Herring and Callum Black.

Captain Johann Muller and Lewis Stevenson continue their hard working partnership in the second-row, while the loose forward trio of Sean Doyle, Robbie Diack and Nick Williams will be hoping to continue their impressive form from last week.

With Paddy Jackson still not fully recovered from his calf injury, O'Connor will start ahead of Paddy Jackson at fly-half, with Michael Heaney retaining the number nine jersey. Cave has been promoted from the bench to start at outside centre at the expense of Chris Farrell. Luke Marshall, Michael Allen, Craig Gilroy and Jared Payne complete the backline.

Anscombe is delighted to welcome back Ferris and Trimble to his matchday squad.

"When you bring players of that calibre back into the mix it gives everyone a lift. The two boys haven't played much rugby in a while so you have to put that in perspective and not expect too much from them this early. Putting them on the bench is a good way of easing them back in," he said.

Explaining the changes to his starting team, he commented: "With Paddy Jackson it was a precaution with his calf; he's not 100 percent but he's feeling much better than he was and he's progressing well. It wasn't worth the risk and we wanted to give Niall another chance to show what he can do.

"Darren Cave was on the bench last week, he's been training with the team now for a few weeks and I though he came on for the last quarter of an hour last week and added greatly to the team. He's an International so he brings that experience to a youthful backline. Declan is the same, he's been training well and we wanted to have a look at him from the start."

Form: Ospreys' seven game winning streak in the RaboDirect PRO12 ended in Italy last Friday, with their 6-12 reversal to Benetton Treviso. Ospreys have won their last three matches at Liberty Stadium and lost only once to an Irish province last season: 14-15 to Ulster at Ravenhill on 24 February. Ulster began the new season with an 18-10 victory over Glasgow at Ravenhill, but have tripped up in their last two away games in the PRO12, at Connacht and Munster. The Ulstermen have won three of their last four encounters against Welsh regions, but have lost on their last four visits to the Principality. The last four fixtures between the two sides have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Ulster's only victory at Liberty Stadium since 2006 was 20-16 on 12 September 2009.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Tom Isaacs, 10 Matthew Morgan, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Jonathan Thomas, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 James King, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Ian Gough, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Ryan Bevington.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Joe Rees, 19 George Stowers, 20 Joe Bearman, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Tom Grabham.

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Michael Allen , 10 Niall O'Connor, 9 Michael Heaney, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Sean Doyle, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Lewis Stevenson, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 Declan Fitzpatrick, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Tom Court, 18 John Afoa, 19 Neil McComb, 20 Stephen Ferris, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Andrew Trimble.

Date: Saturday, September 8
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Kick-off: 18.30 BST (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Neil Paterson

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PosTeamPPts
1Ulster626
2Leicester Tigers621
3Montpellier611
4Treviso60