herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Spotlight on Rhys as Leinster go in search of points

Matt O'Connor
Matt O'Connor

THIS crucial match-up between the hosts, The Ospreys, in fifth and Leinster in fourth marks the return to action of Rhys Ruddock at The Liberty Stadium tonight (KO7.35, TG4).

The eyes of the Irish management will definitely be trained on Swansea as the Ireland flanker bids to make a late run into contention for Wales and/or Scotland.

Of more immediate concern to coach Matt O'Connor (inset) will be the vital points up for grabs at a venue where Leinster have had to absorb more than one cruel experience.

Isaac Boss, Dave Kearney and Richardt Strauss have been released to join grizzled campaigners Gordon D'Arcy and Fergus McFadden in a side showing seven changes to that which left it late to hit Zebre for the bonus-point.

There is a rare start for unlucky Tom Denton in the second row beside Kane Douglas in behind the under-rated Michael Bent, Strauss and the fast-improving Tadhg Furlong. The back row isn't too shabby either with Ruddock out to make a point, Jack Conan continuing his apprenticeship at this level and Josh van der Flier keen to repay the growing faith of the coaches in him.

The Ospreys are coming into this one from back-to-back defeats in Scotland to Edinburgh and Glasgow as the 2013 U20 World Player of the Year Sam Davies continues to learn his trade in the number ten shirt.

Ospreys: D Evans; T Grabham, J Spratt, J Matavesi, H Dirksen; S Davies, M Roberts; R Bevington, S Otten, D Arhip, T Cavubati, T Ardron (capt), J Bearman, J King, D Baker.

Leinster: Z Kirchner; F McFadden, B Te'o, G D'Arcy, D Kearney; J Gopperth, I Boss (capt); M Bent, R Strauss, T Furlong, T Denton, K douglas, R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Conan.

VERDICT: Ospreys

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