Sport Rugby

Monday 23 April 2018

Holley's all-star cast bidding to satisfy great expectations

Hugh Farrelly

THEY play at the Liberty Stadium and are named after a swift and deadly bird of prey, but the Ospreys have been shackled by their perceived lack of achievement since forming in 2003.

Each season the Welsh outfit, with its array of international stars, are talked up as potential Heineken Cup contenders and Magners League champions and each season results fall short of expectation.

They did win the Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2008 but, with all due respect to that contrived competition, it is a trophy that ranks a distant third in the seasonal wish list.

However, after the disappointment of their Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat to an eminently beatable Biarritz side last month, Sean Holley's side -- with a stronger squad than they have ever had access to -- have the opportunity to emulate their Magners League title-winning exploits of 2005 and 2007.

First they have to get past Glasgow in Swansea tonight, a side who, in contrast to their semi-final opponents, are greater than the sum of their parts.

The Scots do have the celebrated back-row trio of Kelly Brown, John Barclay and Johnnie Beattie and decent fellow-Scottish internationals in Alastair Kellock, Dan Parks, Graeme Morrison and Max Evans, but when the two line-ups are measured against each other, the Ospreys have the monopoly on matinee idols.

The back line reads like a who's who of Welsh rugby garnished by the try-hungry presence of Ireland's Tommy Bowe, the world's in-form winger. James Hook, Shane Williams and Lee Byrne are the holy trinity of Welsh three-quarters and in Dan Biggar the Ospreys have a 20-year-old out-half with the maturity and skills to take over from Stephen Jones in the national side.

In the pack, there are six more Welsh Grand Slam winners plus a couple of top-quality Kiwis in Jerry Collins and Marty Holah. It is a daunting selection by any standards, but Glasgow will take heart from the Ospreys' record of mental and physical implosion.

The Warriors will be focused and driven but lack the all-round quality of their hosts and, while there are no guarantees, you would assume the Ospreys will be up for this one as they seek to make a statement that will justify the hype.

Glasgow will not roll over in what should be a well-contested affair, but you would back the home side to pull clear in the second half for a 10 to 15-point win.

Verdict: Ospreys

OSPREYS -- L Byrne; T Bowe, A Bishop, J Hook, S Williams; D Biggar, M Phillips; P James, H Bennett, A Jones; AW Jones, J Thomas; J Collins, M Holah, R Jones (Capt). Reps: E Shervington, R Bevington, I Gough, F Tiatia, J Nutbrown, G Owen, N Walker.

GLASGOW -- B Stortoni; R Dewey, M Evans, G Morrison, DTH van der Merwe; D Parks, M McMillan; E Kalman, F Thomson, M Low; T Barker, A Kellock; K Brown, J Barclay, J Beattie. Reps: P MacArthur, K Tkachuk, D Turner, J Eddie, H O'Hare, D Weir, C Shaw.

REF -- G Clancy (Ireland).

Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors,

Live, Setanta Ireland, 7.05

Irish Independent

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