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Grand Final re-run in Dublin

Guinness PRO12 Editor

6 Jan 2011

Leinster and the Ospreys go head to head in a rerun of last year’s inaugural Grand Final this weekend.

The reigning Magners League Champions return to the scene of their third Celtic triumph on Friday night for what should be another mouth-watering occasion.

The Ospreys arrive in Dublin looking for a repeat of that 17-12 victory seven months ago as they attempt to jump above Leinster in the current Magners League standings.

Last season’s beaten finalists currently lead their Welsh opponents by a single point having hit form after a slow start to the season.

Joe Schmidt began his reign as Leinster coach with three defeats from his first four matches but a run of six wins and a draw from their last seven Magners League ties has resulted in a climb of six places in three-and-a-half months.

Leinster now sit in third place in the table, just a point shy of the second-placed Scarlets and a home semi-final, with things looking good for a team who welcome back Ireland and Lions star Luke Fitzgerald for his first provincial match since October.

Schmidt can also call on the likes of Leinster legend Brian O’Driscoll and fellow Ireland internationals Gordon D’Arcy, Jonathan Sexton, Shane Horgan, Cian Healy and Jamie Heaslip after they all sat out the New Year’s Day win over Connacht.

The Ospreys head to the Irish capital on a mixed run of form, with some huge victories accompanied by some disappointing setbacks over the last few months.

Like Friday’s opponents, Scott Johnson’s side started the season slowly, losing two of their opening four fixtures. By the end of October the champions had still lost more games than they had won, but four successive victories took them into the much-coveted Play-Off places.

Those triumphs included a 60-point thrashing of local rivals the Scarlets as well as another hard-fought win over Leinster. The Swansea-based outfit came out on top 19-15 at the Liberty Stadium on November 28 – Leinster’s only Magners League defeat since September.

The Ospreys have picked a much-changed side for their first match of 2011 but Johnson and fellow coaches Sean Holley and Jonathan Humphreys can still call on 10 internationals in their starting lineup, with a further four on the bench.

Promising young openside Justin Tipuric captains the champs but he won’t be without an experienced voice alongside him as Grand Final-winning skipper Ryan Jones packs down at No8.

And the Ospreys will no doubt need that experience when they run out in front of what is all set to be another massive crowd at the RDS. Having welcomed more than 18,000 for the victory over Connacht last week, Leinster have already sold close to 16,000 tickets for the latest installment of Magners League drama.

For a statistical overview of this Round 13 clash between two of the League’s cmost successful sides, please click here.