Preview: Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors

Date published: February 24 2017

Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy has rung the changes to his starting XV for Saturday’s clash with Glasgow Warriors at Liberty Stadium.

In all there are eight alterations to his run-on side which lost to Munster last weekend. In the back-line, Josh Matavesi takes over from Kieron Fonotia in midfield with Ashley Beck switching to outside centre after wearing the number 12 jersey against Munster.

Elsewhere in the back-line, Luke Price and Brendon Leonard replace Sam Davies and Tom Habberfield as the starting halfbacks with Leonard also taking over the captaincy from Habberfield.

In the forwards, Dan Baker comes in for James King at number eight while Tyler Adron starts on the blindside flank in place of Olly Cracknell who moves to the openside flank.

Former Springbok prop Brian Mujati is set to make his Ospreys debut after being named as Rhodri Jones’ replacement at tighthead. He is joined in the front row by Hugh Gustafson and Paul James who come in for Scott Baldwin and Nicky Smith at hooker and loosehead prop respectively.

Tandy commented: “It’s another big game, another tough opponent, and another real test for us.

“There was a lot good about our performance last week against Munster but it was let down by a couple of moments where we weren’t accurate enough. Our lack of attention to detail proved costly as it gave Munster ins and a quality team like that can kill you off with the smallest opportunity, which is what they did.

“It was an incredibly disappointed dressing room after the game but we couldn’t dwell on it as we knew that we had to pick ourselves up to go again on Sunday against a side who can, and will, cause us all sorts of problems. They know what it takes to win at the Liberty so will travel with confidence. We’ve got to be at our best.

“We are at the business end of the season now and we know what we’ve got to do. We’ve got three big PRO12 games to come at the Liberty, Glasgow at the weekend and Leinster and Ulster in April, and it’s important that we make home advantage count.

“It’s a busy time, it’s an exciting time, but we mustn’t get distracted or take our eye off the ball. If we aren’t fully focused and preparing properly then it could get very sticky for us. We can’t leave anything to chance, we are in control of our destiny in this competition and have to get the performances in that will allow us to keep it that way, starting Sunday.”

Meanwhile, Matt Smith will make his debut for Glasgow Warriors, while Ratu Tagive could also feature for the first time off the bench in this clash.

Jamie Bhatti is handed his first start and Pat MacArthur is in line to make his 150th appearance for the club, becoming only the eighth player to reach that landmark.

A product of the Scottish Rugby Academy, Smith signed a professional contract in January and is named as open-side flanker for the visit to the Liberty Stadium.

Smith, who has played nine times for Scotland U20, was joined in signing a professional deal earlier this season by Lewis Wynne, who starts at number eight8, while Rob Harley returns from Scotland camp to pack down on the blind-side.

Scott Cummings, who scored twice against Ulster last weekend, continues his partnership with Brian Alainu’uese in the second row.

In the front row, Jamie Bhatti’s good week continues with the loosehead prop making his first start for the Warriors following the announcement that he’s signed his first professional contract for next season.

Corey Flynn and Sila Puafisi also bring their international experience to the front of the scrum.

Brandon Thomson had a debut to remember at the Kingspan, scoring a try from full-back and he moves up the field to his more familiar position of fly-half starting outside of Grayson Hart.

Peter Horne will captain the side from inside centre, with Nick Grigg outside of him wearing 13.

Peter Murchie returns to the side at full-back, he is flanked by Junior Bulumakau and Rory Hughes on the wings.

On the bench MacArthur will look to make his 150th appearance, while Australian-born Tagive looks to make his first, having arrived at Scotstoun earlier this season.

D’arcy Rae signed a new two-year deal this week and is named amongst the replacements as is Alex Allan who returns from international duty with Scotland.

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said: “Matt (Smith) and Jamie (Bhatti) have an opportunity to start for the first time and we are looking forward to seeing them play.

“There is a good blend of youth and experience throughout the 23 and there has been an edge to our training this week as all our players have been pushing hard to be selected.

“With Ratu (Tagive) potentially making his debut and Pat (MacArthur) set to play his 150th game for the club, we have a group of players keen to make an impact from the bench.

“We’ll have to take the game to the Ospreys for 80 minutes as they have been very impressive this season.”

Form: Ospreys’ 23-25 reversal to Munster at Liberty Stadium on Saturday was their first defeat in any tournament since November. The Welshmen have not lost successive matches at the venue since October 2015. Glasgow Warriors have slipped to successive defeats in the PRO12, at home to Scarlets and away at Ulster. The Warriors have been victorious on five of their last eight visits to Wales in all competitions. Ospreys beat Glasgow 22-5 in Round 9 and have not achieved a PRO12 season’s double over the Scotsmen since 2008/09.

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Keelan Giles, 13 Ashley Beck, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Hanno Dirksen, 10 Luke Price, 9 Brendon Leonard (c), 8 Dan Baker, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Tyler Ardron, 5 Rory Thornton 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Hugh Gustafson, 1 Paul James
Replacements: 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 James King, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Kieron Fonotia, 23 Dafydd Howells

Glasgow Warriors: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Junior Bulumakau, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Peter Horne (c), 11 Rory Hughes, 10 Brandon Thomson, 9 Grayson Hart, 8 Lewis Wynne, 7 Matt Smith, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Brian Alainu’uese, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Jamie Bhatti
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Alex Allan, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Tjiuee Uanivi, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 Nemia Kenatale, 22 Richie Vernon, 23 Ratu Tagive

Date: Sunday, February 26
Venue: Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Kick-off: 13:05 GMT
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)