Third-placed Ospreys welcome Glasgow Warriors to the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, with both sides looking to get back to winning ways in the Guinness PRO12.
What’s at stake?
Should both Munster and Leinster lose to Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons respectively on Friday night, then Ospreys could find themselves sitting top of the Guinness PRO12 come Sunday.
They currently occupy third spot heading into Round 16, one point behind Leinster and three off of leaders Munster.
Glasgow Warriors sit sixth ahead of the game and will be looking to climb the table with a bit of a gap opening up between them and seventh-placed Cardiff Blues.
Ulster are one place and two points above the 2015 champions, while Scarlets are just eight ahead in that fourth and final semi-final spot.
And both sides will be eager to bounce back from disappointing losses. Ospreys’ narrow 25-23 home defeat to Munster last Saturday was their first defeat in any competition since November, while Glasgow are hoping to avoid a third straight reverse.
Team news (Ospreys):
Steve Tandy might have 11 players unavailable for selection due to international duty, but he does have Brian Mujati to call upon, with the prop making his Ospreys debut after joining from Sale Sharks earlier this month.
He packs down in an all-changed front row that sees Paul James brought in at loosehead and Hugh Gustafson named at hooker for his first Ospreys start.
There are ten changes altogether – two of them positional – with Dan Baker returning at No.8 and Tyler Ardron getting the nod at blindside flanker.
Luke Price replaces Sam Davies, who is on Wales duty, and Brendon Leonard takes over from Tom Habberfield at scrum-half, with Josh Matavesi fit again to resume at No.12.
The positional switches see Ashley Beck moving to outside centre and Olly Cracknell taking over at openside, while Rory Thornton makes his 50th Ospreys appearance in the second row.
Team news (Glasgow Warriors):
There is also a debut for the visitors with flanker Matt Smith making his Glasgow Warriors bow, while Ratu Tagive could also feature for the first time off the bench.
Jamie Bhatti is handed his first start and Pat MacArthur is in line to make his 150th appearance for the club, becoming only the eighth player to reach that landmark.
Lewis Wynne starts at No.8 while Rob Harley returns from the Scotland camp to pack down on the blindside.
Scott Cummings, who scored twice against Ulster last weekend, continues his partnership with Brian Alainu’uese in the second-row, while Corey Flynn and Sila Puafisi join Bhatti in the front row.
Brandon Thomson had a debut to remember at the Kingspan after scoring a try from full-back, and he moves up the field to his more familiar position of fly-half, starting outside of Grayson Hart.
Peter Horne will captain the side from inside centre, with Nick Grigg outside of him wearing the No.13 jersey.
Peter Murchie returns to the side at full-back and he is flanked by Junior Bulumakau and Rory Hughes on the wings.
Scarlets head coach Steve Tandy said:
“There was a lot good about our performance last week against Munster, but it was let down by a couple of moments where we weren’t accurate enough.
“Our lack of attention to detail proved costly as it gave Munster ins and a quality team like that can kill you off with the smallest opportunity, which is what they did.
“It was an incredibly disappointed dressing room after the game, but we couldn’t dwell on it as we knew that we had to pick ourselves up to go again on Sunday against a side who can, and will, cause us all sorts of problems.”
Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said:
“Matt (Smith) and Jamie (Bhatti) have an opportunity to start for the first time and we are looking forward to seeing them play.
“There is a good blend of youth and experience throughout the 23 and there has been an edge to our training this week as all our players have been pushing hard to be selected.
“With Ratu (Tagive) potentially making his debut and Pat (MacArthur) set to play his 150th game for the club, we have a group of players keen to make an impact from the bench.
“We’ll have to take the game to the Ospreys for 80 minutes as they have been very impressive this season.”
Rory Thornton and Scott Cummings are no strangers to each other, facing off for Wales U20s and Scotland U20s respectively.
And as they prepare to do battle on Sunday it will be a memorable occasion for Thornton no matter what as he makes his 50th Ospreys appearance.
But Cummings will be looking to spoil the party and heads into the game in fine fettle after dotting down twice against Ulster last weekend.
The Warriors have been victorious on five of their last eight visits to Wales in all competitions.
However, Ospreys beat Glasgow 22-5 in Round 9 but have not achieved a season-double over the Warriors since 2008/09.
Did you know?
The Ospreys have not lost successive matches at the Liberty Stadium since October 2015.
Top points scorer: 84 – Sam Davies
Top try scorer: 5 – Dan Evans
Top points scorer: 48 – Finn Russell
Top try scorer: 8 – Tommy Seymour
Ospreys: Dan Evans, Keelan Giles, Ashley Beck, Josh Matavesi, Hanno Dirksen, Luke Price, Brendon Leonard, Paul James, Hugh Gustafson, Brian Mujati, Lloyd Ashley, Rory Thornton, Tyler Ardron, Olly Cracknell, Dan Baker
Replacements: Ifan Phillips, Gareth Thomas, Rhodri Jones, James King, Sam Underhill, Tom Habberfield, Kieron Fonotia, Dafydd Howells
Glasgow Warriors: Peter Murchie, Junior Bulumakau, Nick Grigg, Peter Horne, Rory Hughes, Brandon Thomson, Grayson Hart, Jamie Bhatti, Corey Flynn, Sila Puafisi, Brian Alainu’uese, Scott Cummings, Rob Harley, Matt Smith, Lewis Wynne
Replacements: Pat MacArthur, Alex Allan, D’arcy Rae, Tjiuee Uanivi, Chris Fusaro, Nemia Kenatale, Richie Vernon, Ratu Tagive
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 28, Ospreys won 13, Glasgow won 12 with 3 games drawn.
At Liberty Stadium, 1.05pm. Live on BBC Wales and BBC Alba
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU, 2nd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU), Craig Evans (WRU)
Citing Commissioner: Jeff Marks (WRU)
TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)
Ospreys climbed to second in the Guinness PRO12 table as two tries in two second-half minutes saw them come from behind to seal a 26-15 bonus-point victory over Glasgow Warriors at Liberty Stadium.
Both sides came into the match on the back of PRO12 defeats last weekend, and it was Ospreys who responded best as scores from Tyler Ardron and Kieron Fonotia helped them overturn a one-point deficit midway through the second period.
The Welsh hosts had raced into an early lead through Keelan Giles’ 12th try of the campaign and a Josh Matavesi effort but Glasgow responded through Corey Flynn and Peter Murchie, to edge 15-14 in front.
However, Ardron and Fonotia both completed impressive team moves to give Ospreys a first season double over their Scottish opponents since the 2008-09 campaign, having triumphed 22-5 back in Round 9.
Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend talked up his side’s ideal blend of youth and experience in the build-up to the clash but it was Ospreys’ young star Giles who opened the scoring on nine minutes.
Dan Evans found Dafydd Howells and he fed the 19-year-old phenom, who demonstrated his blazing pace to race over the whitewash from outside the 22 – Luke Price adding the extras.
The Welsh side continued to dominate the territory and 7-0 became 14-0 on 21 minutes as the impressive Ashley Beck made another initial burst into the 22 and, a few passes later, Matavesi found the gap to bundle over.
Price was again successful from the tee but Glasgow produced an almost instant response as they capitalised on an Ospreys knock-on in their own 22 to feed Flynn, who pushed his way across the whitewash.
Brandon Thomson nailed the conversion and, as the conditions became increasingly unhelpful for running rugby, the South African fly-half elected to take the points when Warriors were awarded a 46th-minute penalty to narrow the deficit to 14-10.
And they led for the first time with 30 minutes remaining when Murchie finished off some exquisite build-up play, which had started with a scintillating Rory Hughes break deep into the Ospreys 22.
But Steve Tandy’s troops have not lost successive matches at the Liberty Stadium since October 2015 and a quickfire try double midway through the second period ensured that record would remain intact.
Firstly, Canadian back-rower Ardron charged over the line underneath the posts to give the hosts the lead once again before Fonotia collected a gorgeous kick through and dotted down to establish an 11-point advantage, wrapping up the four-try bonus point in the process.
At 26-15 behind, the Warriors put concerted pressure on the Ospreys defence but the hosts held firm to leapfrog Munster in the Guinness PRO12 standings.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017, 27th May, Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Ticket Information: Fans can still avail of an exclusive number of €30 tickets. Book via www.ticketmaster.ie. Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final
24 Feb 2017
24 Feb 2017