Leinster welcome Ospreys in one of the premier clashes of Round 9 as the Guinness PRO14 returns after a two-week break.
The reigning champions have won six on the spin and sit clear at the top of Conference B, while their Welsh opposition are among the pack chasing Glasgow Warriors in Conference A.
Ospreys will want to bounce back as they lost to the Scottish side in a key clash earlier this month.
What’s at stake?
For Leinster they will want to show their strength in depth and blood their youngsters, with more than a dozen players on international duty.
The Irish side are still unbeaten at home having won all three of their matches at the RDS Arena and will want to protect that record.
Ospreys sit third in Conference A and a win could see them overtake Munster as well as pull away from Cardiff Blues and Connacht.
Team news (Leinster): Leo Cullen has given flanker Scott Penny his first start for the club as the 19-year-old gets the call at openside.
Jimmy O’Brien and Jack Kelly are also set to make their debuts at the RDS Arena while academy full-back Hugo Keenan will make his third appearance for Leinster.
Team news (Ospreys): The fixture will be a special one for two of the Ospreys. Johnny Kotze makes his first start for the club at centre, becoming the 235th player to pull on the jersey.
Sam Davies will be making his 100th appearance in the competition as he lines up at fly-half for the away side.
— Ospreys (@ospreys) November 21, 2018
Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke said: “This is another big challenge for us. Leinster away is one of the toughest fixtures in European rugby, regardless of the time of year or the team selected.
“As always, our focus is on our own game, our mindset and our actions. We’ve had an excellent training week but ultimately we’ll be judged by the 80 minutes tomorrow night.”
Leinster hooker James Tracy said: “It’s an exciting week. There’s a lot of fresh faces in the building with the Irish lads being away.
“There’s a lot of opportunity and people excited to get their chance. Of course we are excited to get playing again in front of our home supporters.
“I remember this is the window when I got my first chance and a few of the lads will hopefully get theirs. Hopefully we can give the 16,000 plus supporters something to shout about.”
Key battle: Adam Byrne v Keelan Giles
The pair line-up face to face on the wings, having both come off great all-round performances in Round 8.
Byrne grabbed a try for Leinster as they beat Isuzu Southern Kings in South Africa, as well as contributing with powerful carrying and tackles in defence.
Giles beat more defenders than any attacker during Round 8, as he ran for 62 metres on four carries during the Ospreys’ defeat against Glasgow.
Key stat: Ospreys fly-half Sam Davies leads the league in points with 71 after the opening eight rounds. The Welshman also has 98 kicks from hand, more than any other player.
Did you know? In the 31 meetings between the two sides there have been 109 tries scored, 60 for Leinster and 49 for Ospreys.
LINE UP: Scott Penny makes his #LeinsterRugby debut from the start tomorrow night, while Jimmy O’Brien and Jack Kelly could make their first appearances from the bench. #LEIvOSP #FromTheGroundUp pic.twitter.com/WiruzQFgva
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) November 22, 2018
Leinster: Hugo Keenan, Adam Byrne, Conor O’Brien, Noel Reid, James Lowe, Ciarán Frawley, Nick McCarthy, Peter Dooley, James Tracy, Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Scott Fardy (c), Josh Murphy, Scott Penny, Caelan Doris
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Ed Byrne, Vakh Abdaladze, Mick Kearney, Max Deegan, Hugh O’Sullivan, Jimmy O’Brien, Jack Kelly
Ospreys: James Hook, Hanno Dirksen, Cory Allen, Johnny Kotze, Keelan Giles, Sam Davies, Tom Habberfield, Rhodri Jones, Scott Otten, Tom Botha, Giorgi Nemsadze, Lloyd Ashley, Olly Cracknell (c), Sam Cross, James King
Replacements: Sam Parry, Gareth Thomas, Alex Jeffries, Rob McCusker, Will Jones, Matthew Aubrey, Luke Morgan, Tom Williams
TV: Kick off at 7.35pm, live on Premier Sports 2, eir sport 1 and TG4
Referee: Marius Mitrea
Assistant Referees: Eddie Hogan O’Connell, Rob O’Sullivan
TMO: Colin Stanley
Leinster were in seventh heaven as they ran in a septet of tries, bringing up the 50-point mark in the process, as they sent out a message against the Ospreys.
Three tries in the first period set the pace for a dominant victory, as Leinster proved ruthless at every opportunity while Ospreys struggled to make the most of their chances.
And four more scores in the second drove up the scoreboard in irrepressible fashion, making it a night to remember for the Leinster faithful at the RDS Arena.
But it was Ospreys who started the game on the front foot, enjoying lengthy territory up at Leinster’s try-line, but the Irish side soon made the breakthrough against the run of play.
Leinster made ground and found themselves up on the Ospreys’ 22, before Conor O’Brien’s piercing run was fed by Scott Fardy, and the 22-year-old charged in under the posts.
Ciaran Frawley converted the extras and not long after extended Leinster’s lead to double digits, kicking a penalty after it looked as though Leo Cullen’s men could have had more.
The home side took control of proceedings, dominating possession and posing a scoring threat every time they got on the ball.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) November 23, 2018
And they made it count when a lineout deep into Ospreys territory became a powerful driving maul for the hosts, with debutant Scott Penny doing the honours as Leinster broke the paint.
Just as Ospreys thought they had grabbed a foothold in the match, Sam Davies cutting through the Leinster line before handing off beautifully to James Hook to dot down, TMO intervened to rule out the score for a previous infringement by Johnny Kotze.
And Leinster rubbed salt into the visitors’ wounds when they once again charged down to the Ospreys line, where relentless rucking eventually resulted in Nick McCarthy diving over, giving the Irish side a 24-0 advantage at the break.
The Guinness PRO14 reigning champions started the second-half in much the same way that they ended the first, Ciaran Frawley kicking into the corner before Leinster found themselves once more camped on the Ospreys line.
The defence looked to be resolute, but Scott Fardy managed to sneak the ball in at the base of the post to seal the bonus point for the hosts.
Leinster made it five when a flowing interchange of rapid-fire passes took them from half-way to the Ospreys line in the blink of an eye.
Once more held up on the line, it was replacement Ed Byrne’s turn to dive over, further extending the hosts’ impressive lead.
Max Deegan, fresh from the bench, quickly turned scorer of Leinster’s sixth, this time a smart grubber from Noel Reid was gathered by Adam Byrne, who fed the 22-year-old to cross the whitewash.
They brought the 50 up when the Byrne brothers combined for a well-worked score, Ed drawing two Ospreys defenders before feeding Bryan to slide in under the posts.
Ospreys did get themselves on the board in the game’s dying seconds, Hanno Dirksen crossing for a consolation score, but the night belonged to Leinster.