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Preview: Ospreys v Sale Sharks

30th January 2014 12:32

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Richard Fussell Ospreys 2013

Richard Fussell: At 15 for Ospreys

Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy has made seven changes to his starting XV for Friday's LV= Cup clash with Sale in Bridgend.

In the back-line, Richard Fussell replaces Ross Jones at full-back while Aisea Natoga and Sam Davies come in at left wing and fly-half respectively at the expense of Dafydd Howells and Matthew Morgan who were on duty in last weekend's away loss to Exeter Chiefs.

Up front, Dan Baker and Lloyd Evans come in for Morgan Allen and Arthur Ellis in the back-row while Scott Baldwin and Nicky Smith take over from Matthew Dwyer and Marc Thomas at hooker and loosehead prop.

Tandy said his charges were keen to improve after last weeekend's disappointing result at Exeter.

"We're all looking forward to going back to Bridgend on Friday night, and hopefully we'll get another warm welcome and good crowd there showing their support for regional rugby," he explained.

"There has been some fantastic occasions at the Brewery Field with the Ospreys, some great crowds and matches to remember, and we want to make this another occasion that rewards the local community for coming out to support the cause.

"This is an important game for us in terms of building for what is going to be a big few weeks for this group of players. The next month can make or break our campaign in terms of the PRO12 play-offs, with games against Ulster, Treviso, Munster and Edinburgh coming up, so it's important that we get some momentum going on Friday night that can carry us through these difficult games.

"There's a youthful look to the line-up again, but with some senior figures coming in to strengthen the team from last weekend. Just as the youngsters have to take the opportunity to show what they can do, the senior players have to take responsibility for leadership of the group at this time.

"There's a big onus on them to set the standards for the rest to follow, and to show what being an Osprey is all about.

"Looking back at last weekend's game in Exeter, there was a lot to be pleased about the performance. There was a good intent about our play and a willingness to work hard against a very strong and physical Exeter team.

"We moved the ball well and looked very dangerous, but there were areas of the game where we didn't quite get it right and Exeter took full advantage. This week has been about working on those areas and focussing on getting the performance that we believe can start off this run of games on the right note."

Meanwhile, Sale boss Steve Diamond has made just one change to his run-on side after last weekend's 20-6 victory over Worcester Warriors. Jonathan Mills comes into the side at lock in place of Kirill Kulemin.

Although Sale are currently sitting at the top of Pool Two, only a bonus point win would completely guarantee a semi-final place.

A win would put Sharks in the mix along with Exeter Chiefs and Leicester Tigers, but defeat would almost certainly mean Sale would be eliminated from the competition.

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Tom Grabham, 13 Jonathan Spratt (c), 12 Matthew Jenkins, 11 Aisea Natoga, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Lloyd Evans, 6 Tyler Ardron, 5 Rhodri Hughes, 4 Lloyd Peers, 3 Dan Suter, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Joe Rees, 19 Perry Parker, 20 Morgan Allen, 21 Arthur Ellis, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Ashley Beck.

Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Phil MacKenzie, 13 Andy Forsyth, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Charlie Ingall, 10 Joe Ford, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Viliami Fihaki, 7 Andrew Hughes, 6 Mark Easter (c), 5 Tom Holmes, 4 Jonathan Mills, 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Dan Baines, 1 Aston Croall.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Vadim Cobilas, 19 James Gaskell, 20 David Seymour, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Nick Macleod, 23 Tom Arscott

Date: Friday, January 31
Kick-off: 19:30 GMT
Venue: Bridgend Ford Brewery Field
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Davies (Wales), Jon Mason (Wales)
Timekeeper: Hopkin Thomas (Wales)
Assessor: Huw Lewis (Wales)

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