Sport Rugby

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Blues could do without another Ospreys swoop


Leinster's record against the Ospreys is a thorn in their side: they have won only one of the last five meetings -- two of those defeats were in the league final -- and they haven't got out of Swansea with a win since 2009. And here come the espoirs looking to turn back the tide.

Given the time of year the Ospreys too are minus their Test stars, but they have recovered remarkably from the haemorrhage of talent over the last two seasons to produce a solid backbone of home-grown players.

And they have enough experience in the side to be good again today, with Richard Fussell and Andrew Bishop behind the scrum, and half their pack -- Duncan Jones, captain Jonathan Thomas, George Stowers and Joe Bearman -- have been around the block a few times.

At scrumhalf too they are pretty well served, between the 23-year-old Rhys Webb, who starts, and the longer in the tooth Kahn Fotuali'i to come on later in the day.

Typically, by the time Ospreys make the change at nine against Irish sides, the damage has already been done. Our provinces have lost seven of the last eight games in Swansea -- Ulster were the exception this season -- and Leinster will go the same way unless their forwards get an early grip on the game, and their backs can survive the choking effect of the home defence.

For the first target Joe Schmidt has put together a decent combination, and physically Leinster should be giving nothing away. As for the second, Kiwi debutant Andrew Goodman, who turned 30 last week, will find himself babysitting the backs along with Isaac Boss.

"Certainly we're keen to beat them, as we're keen to beat anyone in this league at this stage," says manager Guy Easterby. "Apart from Ulster, who have got a bit of a run on everyone, it's getting quite bunched up below them. Ospreys have had a good run of form, with four in a row in the Pro12 and a bonus-point win over Connacht at the weekend."

With a break coming after today, and only two more league fixtures before it's back into Europe and the Clermont saga, handing the Ospreys another bonus would be bad for Leinster's business.

Ospreys: R Fussell; H Dirksen T Isaacs, A Bishop, E Walker; M Morgan, R Webb; D Jones, M Dwyer, J Rees, L Peers, J Thomas (capt), G Stowers, J Bearman, S Lewis. Replacements: A Ellis, M Thomas, D Suter, J King, M Allen, K Fotuali'i, J Spratt, R Jones.

Leinster: D Kearney; A Conway, B Macken, A Goodman, F Carr; I Madigan, I Boss; H van der Merwe, T Sexton, J Hagan, D Browne, D Toner, R Ruddock, L Auva'a, S Jennings (capt). Replacements: J Tracy, M McGrath, M Moore, B Marshal, J Murohy, J Cooney, N Reid, S Coghlan-Murray

Referee: J Lacey (IRFU)

Ospreys v Leinster,

RTE 1, 4.0

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