Leinster face tricky Pro12 tie against in-form Ospreys
Cian Healy, Seán Cronin and Mike Ross among internationals released for clash
Cian Healy: will be hoping to enjoy the milestone of his 150th appearance for Leinster. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho
Leinster v Ospreys, RDS, Saturday (3pm, Sky Sports 1)
There’s a perception that the Ospreys are something of a bogey team for Leinster, one that can be traced to the Welsh side’s thrilling victory in the 2012 Pro12 final at the RDS.
It doesn’t really stack up though, as the Ospreys have only beaten their hosts this afternoon once in the last eight meetings in all competitions. What can be said is that these two teams invariably produce absorbing, high-quality tussles.
The Welsh visitors are a much better side than their current league standing of eighth place suggests, winning three of their last four matches; even in defeat last weekend against Connacht, they were unfortunate not to take home a bonus point.
Injury and Welsh squad commitments have stretched their resources, but in adversity some good young players have come through and none more so than outhalf Sam Davies, who forms a high-quality halfback partnership with captain Rhys Webb.
Leinster coach Leo Cullen makes seven changes from the team that won away to Zebre including the return of a glut of Irish internationals including Fergus McFadden, Cian Healy, Seán Cronin, Mike Ross and Rhys Ruddock.
Healy will hope to enjoy the milestone of his 150th appearance in the blue while Dominic Ryan is set to become the latest Leinster centurion if he is sprung from the bench. Zane Kirchner wins his 60th cap.
The home side have only lost one of their last 10 matches in the league and will be determined to maintain the pursuit of leaders Connacht as they face in to a tough run of matches with away fixtures to Glasgow Warriors and a trip to Galway to face Pat Lam’s side.
Leinster’s clash with Glasgow will really test their resources as Ireland play Scotland and Leinster A face London Welsh in a British & Irish Cup quarter-final, all of which take place the weekend after next.
For now though the focus is nothing more than trying to win what promises to be a competitive fixture this afternoon.
LEINSTER: Z Kirchner; F McFadden, G Ringrose, B Te’o, I Nacewa (capt); I Madigan, E Reddan; C Healy, S Cronin, M Ross; R Molony, M Kearney; R Ruddock, D Leavy, J Murphy. Replacements: R Strauss, P Dooley, T Furlong, H Triggs, D Ryan, L McGrath, C Marsh, N Reid.
OSPREYS: D Evans; J Hassler, J Matavesi, O Watkin, B John; S Davies, R Webb (capt); N Smith, S Parry, D Arhip; T Ardon, R Thornton; J King, O Cracknell, D Baker. Replacements: S Otten, G Thomas, M Fia, A Beard, J Bearman, T Habberfield, J Spratt, T Grabham.
Referee: I Davies (Wales)