Preview: Ospreys v Leinster

Date published: February 26 2015

Isaac Boss will captain Leinster in their huge clash with Pro12 play-off rivals the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium on Friday evening.

The Irish side currently sit fourth in the Pro12, one place and two points ahead of their next opponents, with the next month looking key in the battle for a top four spot.

Last time out Zebre proved stubborn opposition for an hour before Leinster pulled away, but Matt O'Connor has made seven changes from that team.

Zane Kirchner continues at full-back with Fergus McFadden selected on the left wing for his 120th Leinster cap. On the right wing Dave Kearney starts having come off the bench last weekend. 

Gordon D'Arcy and Ben Te'o are once again selected in the centre, while Boss captains the side from scrum-half with Jimmy Gopperth, who scored a try and four successful kicks in a 14 point haul last weekend, starting at 10.

In the pack, Richardt Strauss starts at hooker with Tadhg Furlong also coming in from the start at tighthead. Michael Bent once again scrums down at loosehead prop. 

In the second row, Tom Denton starts alongside Kane Douglas who makes his 19th appearance in blue since arriving from the Waratahs in the summer. In the back row there are two changes with Rhys Ruddock returning from injury to start at blindside flanker, while Josh Van Der Flier makes his second start of the season at open side. Jack Conan continues from the base of the scrum. 

Royce Burke-Flynn is in line to make his Leinster debut having previously been a member of the Leinster Academy. 

For the Ospreys a reaction is needed after last week's narrow loss away to Glasgow.

That saw them drop out of the play-off places for the first time this season, and coach Steve Tandy knows they have a huge run of games coming up, with fellow play-off contenders Munster also heading to the Liberty Stadium next month.

"We’ve been on the road for the last five weekends so it’s good to be coming back to the Liberty this Friday night, for the first of three consecutive home games that will have a huge bearing on our play-off hopes," said Tandy.

"With that in mind, and given the quality of the opposition we are up against, we need a noisy and passionate crowd getting behind us from the very first whistle. Having played a run of difficult away games we have to make the most of home advantage now that we have it.

"After the disappointment of the last two games up in Scotland we are all well aware of what’s at stake over these next few games. We know that we have to focus on performance and if we do that, if we are able to turn that into winning performances, then we will be in control of our own destiny given the teams that still have to come to the Liberty Stadium."

Tandy has been forced into a few personnel changes, with four new faces in the starting line-up.

Hanno Dirksen comes in on the left wing, while up front the absences of Justin Tipuric, Aaron Jarvis and Scott Baldwin have made for a new-look pack.

Joe Bearman comes in at blindside, with James King shifting to openside, while in the front row, Dmitri Arhip and Scott Otten get the starts.

Olly Cracknell could make his Pro12 debut if he comes off the bench.

Form: Ospreys have lost their last two Guinness PRO12 matches, both in Scotland in successive weeks, to Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors, dropping from top spot to 5th in the table in the process. The Welshmen have not lost three successive PRO12 encounters since September 2012. Ospreys have won their last ten matches played at Liberty Stadium in the PRO12 since Munster beat them there twelve months ago. Leinster have won three of their last four fixtures in the Guinness PRO12 and were victorious at Cardiff in their most recent away game in the tournament however they have not won successive away games in the PRO12 over the last year. Ospreys only win in their last six encounters with Leinster in all tournaments was 25-19 in this equivalent fixture at Liberty Stadium last year, whilst Leinster have not been victorious at Liberty Stadium in the PRO12 since a visit in September 2009.

The teams:

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Tom Grabham, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Hanno Dirksen, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Martin Roberts, 8 Dan Baker, 7 James King, 6 Joe Bearman, 5 Tyler Ardron (c), 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Scott Otten, 1 Ryan Bevington
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Daniel Suter, 19 Rhodri Hughes, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Morgan Allen, 22 Tom Habberfield, 23 Richard Fussell

Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Ben Te'o, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh Van Der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Tom Denton, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Michael Bent 
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Royce Burke-Flynn, 19 Ben Marshall, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Darragh Fanning

Date: Friday, 27 February
Venue: Liberty Stadium
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Craig Evans (Wales), Chris Williams (Wales)
Television match official: Derek Bevan (Wales)