Match Page 2017-18 - Scoreboard WP ID: 132

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Preview: Ospreys v Leinster

Andy Baber 23 Mar 2018

A host of Wales internationals will feature for Ospreys when they welcome Leinster to the Liberty Stadium in the Guinness PRO14 on Sunday.

Ospreys will be playing their first game in a month after their clash against Zebre was postponed, while Leinster are looking to get back to winning ways following their 10-10 draw against Scarlets.

What’s at stake?

The hosts, who have won their last two games in the Guinness PRO14, will be looking to get their Champions Cup ambitions back on track against the Conference B leaders.

Ospreys currently lie in sixth position in Conference A, 12 points behind Cardiff Blues and the automatic third-place Champions Cup qualification spot.

However, they are only three points off Connacht, with a game in hand, and finishing fourth would just book them a play-off clash against their counterparts in Conference B.

Leinster currently lead Conference B by three points ahead of Scarlets, who face Munster Rugby at Thomond Park on Saturday.

Team News (Ospreys)

With the Six Nations over and done with for another year, Ospreys welcome back six Wales internationals for the pivotal clash.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Biggar and Justin Tipuric, who all started the 14-13 win over France, are all thrown straight back into the starting XV.

Nicky Smith and Bradley Davies, replacements against Les Bleus, will also run out at the Liberty Stadium, while Owen Watkin is named on the bench.

Team News (Leinster)

While Leinster are missing several of the Six Nations front-liners following Ireland’s Six Nations Grand Slam success, the visitors can call on some of their internationals.

Joey Carbery, who featured in Ireland’s wins over Italy, Wales, Scotland and England, will start at full-back for the visitors, while scrum-half Luke McGrath returns after a knee injury.

He is partnered in the half-backs by Ross Byrne at fly-half, with Noel Reid, who is three appearances away from a century of Leinster caps, starting in midfield alongside Rory O’Loughlin.

There is further international experience in the front row with Jack McGrath, Seán Cronin and Andrew Porter all selected to start.

Talking points

Ospreys interim head coach Allen Clarke said: “It’s been a month without any game time so everybody is really looking forward to Saturday night.

“We’ve been able to welcome back quality and experience into the group this week and we’re in a good place as far as preparation is concerned.

“It says a lot about our environment that players are making themselves available straight off the back of a busy Six Nations campaign, key individuals want to pull on the shirt for these big games.

“We are playing a quality outfit on Saturday, whatever team Leinster send out will be full of top, top players. We respect the opposition and understand what we are up against, but our focus is always on ourselves and on taking care of our own business.”

Key battle – Dan Biggar v Ross Byrne

The fact Biggar has been returned to fly-half berth just a week after a bruising encounter against France in the Six Nations shows the importance of this game for Ospreys.

His kicking will be vital for the visitors if they are to overcome Leinster and give themselves an outside chance at scraping into the Champions Cup qualification places.

Opposite number Ross Byrne, meanwhile, has proved his class while pulling the strings at fly-half and has been championed as a future replacement for Johnny Sexton in the Ireland squad.

Key stat: Ospreys lost their previous four games in all competitions before bouncing back with consecutive PRO14 wins against Southern Kings and Cheetahs.

Did you know? Leinster have lost just one game in all competitions this year.

Ospreys: Dan Evans; Jeff Hassler, Kieron Fonotia, Ashley Beck, Hanno Dirksen; Dan Biggar, Tom Habberfield; Nicky Smith, Scott Otten, Dmitri Arhip, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Olly Cracknell, Justin Tipuric, Sam Cross

Replacements: Ifan Phillips, Rhodri Jones, Ma’afu Fia, Adam Beard, Rob McCusker, Matthew Aubrey, Sam Davies, Owen Watkin

Leinster: Joey Carbery; Fergus McFadden, Rory O’Loughlin, Noel Reid, Barry Daly; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Jack McGrath, Seán Cronin, Andrew Porter, Ross Molony, Scott Fardy, Josh Murphy, Jordi Murphy, Jack Conan

Replacements: James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Michael Bent, Ian Nagle, Max Deegan, Jamison Gibson-Park, Dave Kearney, Adam Byrne

Referee: John Lacey (IRFU, 69th competition game)

Assistant Referees: Andrew Brace, Frank Murphy (IRFU)

Citing Commissioner: Jeff Mark (WRU)

TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)

TV: S4C

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start from just €35 for adults and €10 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Historical Lineup Pre Opta (sfms data) - Preview - v2

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Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Evans double gives Ospreys third win in a row and sinks Leinster at the Liberty

Andrew Lawton 24 Mar 2018

Dan Evans scored two tries as Ospreys won their third Guinness PRO14 game on the bounce and saw off Conference B leaders Leinster Rugby.

The Welsh side improved their hopes of finishing in the Champions Cup spots in Conference A, while Leinster failed to capitalise on Scarlets’ defeat at Munster Rugby earlier in the day.

Full-back Evans scored twice in the first half as a strong opening from Ospreys proved to be crucial in the outcome of the match.

Tom Habberfield added another try for the hosts, but Barry Daly pulled one back for Leinster just before half-time.

Justin Tipuric scored Ospreys fourth try on 49 minutes, but Leinster hit back once more with Rory O’Loughlin getting in on the act.

Ross Byrne put the first points on the board with a Leinster penalty after excellent work from centre O’Loughlin.

But Ospreys soon hit back, with Evans crossing for an historic score, the 712th in a regular Guinness PRO14 season, beating the previous record of 711 set during the 2016/17 campaign.

Dan Biggar collected a high ball among a crowd of players and set the Welsh side on the attack.

The ball made its way to the left flank where Tipuric made some metres down the wing before passing inside to Hanno Dirksen and on to Evans for the try.

After 25 minutes, Ospreys and Evans had extended the lead, this time profiting from some excellent forward work and 13 phases of play before the ball was fed down the back line.

An excellent offload from Kieron Fonotia presented Evans with the opportunity and he grabbed the ball at the second attempt, touching down in the corner, with Biggar adding the conversion.

Leinster struggled to find a way into the game, with Ospreys dominating the first half, and the Welsh side scored again shortly before the interval.

Ashley Beck turned provider this time, stepping inside the Leinster defence and passing the ball to his left where Habberfield was on hand to score under the posts.

But Leinster found time for a try of their own on the stroke of half-time, as an excellent Adam Byrne carry and a strong Sean Cronin carry presented Daly with a try-scoring chance in the corner.

Ospreys picked up the bonus-point try nine minutes into the second half as the centres, Fonotia and Beck combined beautifully to get behind the Leinster defence and Tipuric had an easy finish under the posts.

But Leinster kept themselves in the game with O’Loughlin showing great desire and pace to reach Luke McGrath’s grubber kick through before the ball went dead.

The two sides exchanged penalties, but Ospreys managed the game well and secured their third win in succession.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start from just €35 for adults and €10 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

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Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138