Match Preview: Ospreys vs. Ulster Rugby

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Match Preview: Ospreys vs. Ulster Rugby

Post by ADM » Fri Dec 19, 2014 4:14 pm

[tag=image] ... spreys.gif[/tag][tag=content]We’re done with Europe now, and the less said about it the better.

Neil Doak has come in for some considerable slating over the last week following our dour performance in dour conditions in dour Llanelli, and while I feel most of it is probably unwarranted he does have a lot to answer for with his substitutions – especially the call not to bring off the clearly struggling Declan Fitzpatrick before he got sin binned. No matter how unproven Bronson Ross is at this level, he couldn’t possibly have done any worse than Fitzpatrick did.

Still, I opened with the less said about it the better, and I will leave it there, not wanting to be drawn into any sort of debate regarding whether or not we’re a team in decline, and instead look forward to another season defining game at the Liberty Stadium tomorrow.

The Ospreys are something of an enigma this season. After racking up seven consecutive victories to begin their domestic campaign, with only a defeat at Franklin’s Gardens preventing them from going nine unbeaten in all competitions, our hosts have succumbed to two losses in the Pro12 – both in Ireland to us and Leinster – and although they still occupy second place in the league, there will be a general sense of disappointment that they still do not have control on first place.

Their European form has been patchy too, much like ours. A crushing win over Treviso was par for the course, but a horrible trip to the Gardens, coupled by taking just three points from their two games against Racing Metro, means they are facing an early exit from the Champions’ Cup, and therefore their main focus is probably on trying to secure a top four spot in the Pro12 – much like us.

And therefore this makes tomorrow’s game crucial. If, against all the odds and in front of the Sky Sports cameras, we can pull off another remarkable win in Swansea – something we’ve been getting good at over the past few years – then we will have started off our festive period in the perfect way, and with Connacht and Leinster still to come in the next two weeks it would be a vital win in furthering our now essential top four endeavours. Ideally we want two out of three wins from the next three games, and who of us really expects us to come away from the RDS with four points?

Easier said than done though – we all know what the Ospreys are capable of at full strength, especially with their lethal half-back combination of Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar pulling the strings. The inclusion of Dan Lydiate will no doubt provide some inspiration for a pack that has been decimated by injuries, while the experience and nuance of Alun-Wyn Jones in the second row can swing a game in the Swansea side’s favour.

For us, put simply, a losing bonus point is a minimum requirement from tomorrow’s game, with a win extremely preferable. We’ve now lost two of our last three games, both of which were away from Belfast, and a real pick-me-up is needed for this squad, especially now that the European carrot has been hastily withdrawn. But based on our current form, can you even see us getting within seven?

Steve Tandy has named 22 of the team that lost to Racing Metro last weekend in this week’s matchday squad, including an unchanged starting XV, with the big news being that the one change, Dan Lydiate, has been named among the replacements having successfully made the move to the Liberty Stadium earlier this month. He will make his Ospreys debut should he come on from the bench.

Meanwhile, Neil Doak has made two changes to the side that was defeated by the Scarlets last Sunday, including a start for Andrew Warwick only three days after he signed his first senior contract with Ulster. He starts in the front row at the expense of Callum Black, while Declan Fitzpatrick is retained at tighthead despite his poor showing in Llanelli. The other change sees Craig Gilroy rested and Michael Allen promoted to the wing in his place. Stuart Olding is included on the bench having recovered from concussion.

For all the complaints of Doak from last week, it’s time to get back on the bandwagon and get behind the lads once again. The Liberty Stadium is a ground in recent seasons where we’ve actually had a bit of success however this is one of the first seasons we’ve travelled to Wales knowing we are likely to come up against the best that the Ospreys have to throw at us and we can expect a backlash following their horrid European performances.

Let’s hope we provide a backlash of our own.

Ospreys vs. Ulster Rugby
Saturday 20th December, 17:15
Liberty Stadium
Guinness PRO12 – Round 10

Live on Sky Sports 2

15. Daniel Evans, 14. Hanno Dirksen, 13. Ashley Beck, 12. Josh Matavesi, 11. Eli Walker, 10. Dan Biggar, 9. Rhys Webb; 1. Marc Thomas, 2. Scott Baldwin, 3. Dmitri Arhip, 4. Rynier Bernardo, 5. Alun-Wyn Jones (capt.), 6. James King, 7. Justin Tipuric, 8. Tyler Ardron.

16. Sam Parry, 17. Gareth Thomas, 18. Dan Suter, 19. Dan Lydiate, 20. Sam Lewis, 21. Martin Roberts, 22. Sam Davies, 23. Andrew Bishop.

15. Louis Ludik, 14. Tommy Bowe, 13. Darren Cave, 12. Luke Marshall, 11. Michael Allen, 10. Ian Humphreys, 9. Ruan Pienaar; 1. Andrew Warwick, 2. Rory Best (capt.), 3. Declan Fitzpatrick, 4. Dan Tuohy, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 6. Robbie Diack, 7. Clive Ross, 8. Roger Wilson.

16. Rob Herring, 17. Callum Black, 18. Bronson Ross, 19. Alan O’Connor, 20. Sean Reidy, 21. Paul Marshall, 22. Stuart Olding, 23. Peter Nelson.

Referee: Neil Paterson (SRU, 65th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens, Chris Williams (both WRU)
Citing Commissioner: John Charles (WRU)
TMO: Tim Hayes (WRU)[/tag]

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