Ospreys unlikely to halt Leinster’s winning ways
Coach Cullen makes several changes for the visit to south Wales
Hugo Keenan: forms part of a pacy Leinster backline with James Lowe and Cian Kelleher for the visit to Ospreys. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Ospreys v Leinster, The Gnoll, Friday, 7.35pm - Live on TG4 & Eir Sport 2
There’s a sweeping new look to the Leinster team that beat Cheetahs last week. But Leo Cullen’s side boast a formidable record as they bid to extend their unbeaten run against struggling Ospreys.
The Leinster team has become indistinguishable from the extended squad and, despite seven players in Ireland coach Andy Farrell’s unchanged side to face England, they are expected to maintain the pristine record.
Five of the Leinster changes are in the backline with Jamison Gibson-Park starting at scrumhalf with Ciarán Frawley retained from the win over Cheetahs.
Jimmy O’Brien again starts at outside centre with Conor O’Brien replacing Joe Tomane inside him. An all-new back three with James Lowe on the left wing, Cian Kelleher on the right wing and Hugo Keenan at fullback makes for a pacy attack.
Where the league leaders could be vulnerable is on the bench with six Academy players Jack Aungier, Ryan Baird, Harry Byrne, Jack Dunne, Michael Milne and Tommy O’Brien providing much of the backup.
Justin Tipuric, Alun Wyn Jones and George North are with Wales and won’t be available as Ospreys, notwithstanding a surprise 26-24 win over Ulster last time out, continue to struggle with just two wins so far. They remain bottom of Conference A.
Neath in South Wales and probably poor conditions will be a leveller in the match, as Ospreys take their rugby to the regions. But arm wrestle ability, a big forwards performance with Gibson-Park and Frawley’s ability to control has become part of the defending Pro 14 champions’ play book.
OSPREYS: C Evans; H Dirksen, O Watkin, K Williams, L Morgan; L Price, A Davies; N Smith, S Otten, S Gardiner; A Beard, B Davies; D Lydiate (capt), O Cracknell, D Baker.
Replacements: S Parry, G Thomas, G Gajion, L Ashley, S Cross, S Venter, T Thomas-Wheeler, J Hook.
LEINSTER: H Keenan; C Kelleher, J O’Brien, C O’Brien, J Lowe; C Frawley, J Gibson-Park; P Dooley, J Tracy, M Bent; R Molony, S Fardy (capt); J Murphy, S Penny, R Ruddock.
Replacements: S Cronin, M Milne, J Aungier, J Dunne, R Baird, R Osborne, H Byrne, T O’Brien.
Referee: S Berry (SA).
Verdict: Leinster win