Friday, November 28, 2014

Preview : Leinster v Ospreys


So...here's how I left things at the end of my writeup of our match in Treviso last Sunday.
...Ian Madigan absolutely, positively, MUST start at 10 for Leinster against the Ospreys this weekend and beyond.  I'm going to leave it at that in case it doesn't happen and I can launch into my rant in my preview this Friday.
I didn't write that because I have anything against Gopperth.  Nor did I write it because I feel Madigan should always be preferred simply because he's Irish.  I wrote it because it seems to be the obvious choice based on form.  Clearly Matt O'Connor and his coaching staff disagree.

Now don't get me wrong...I don't think for a second that I know any better than they do...I'm sure they have their reasons.  It just seems strange that a player who is muscling his way into starting contention for the number 3 test team in the world can't play at his preferred position at his province.  

Unless, of course, you consider the possibility that his long term future IS at 12 for the test side (and Leinster for that matter with Sexton returning?).  I mean - when you look at this particular Leinster lineup you notice two things... (1) both of our most-often-used 12s are on the bench and (2) there is an embarrassment of riches in the versatility department along the backline so there are many different ways the same players could have been utilised.

Well, whatever the reason, I suppose I wouldn't be doing anyone any favours by actually going on a prolonged rant over one position.  Leinster really need the win this Saturday and the key to this will be whether or not there is enough leadership on the park to get the job done.

Eoin Reddan lines out as captain after also doing so for his country against Georgia.  He seemed to be very mindful of his role that day and hopefully he can do likewise this time around, though for me it's his role keeping the play moving that will be crucial.

The Ospreys tend to do well on defence whether they have all their internationals or not.  They fell short against the Ulstermen last Friday but were it not for a silly crossing penalty shipped late in the game they may very well have pinched it.

One thing you can always say about these pesky birds, they'll give it their all for the full 80 minutes, which means you have to be sure and make your chances count.

So given all of that, it is imperative that our halfbacks stay on top throughout, and they will have their work cut out against Roberts & Davies who were key in dragging the O's back into the match in Belfast.  There's no point pretending that there is going to be a whole lot of width on our part, but that said, in Fanning and Kearney The Younger we have two good finishers under the current regime.

Plus, in some ways for all our despair over Madigan at 12 we can at least be thankful that with him and McFadden (when we saw Ferg laid out at the Aviva against Munster never dreamed he'd be back so soon) minding the centre channel things should be a lot more solid than last weekend in Italy.

This is a unique fixture for this much-maligned competition as it has seen a rivalry develop organically over the years.  And I don't expect the intensity to be any less this Saturday than it has been in the past.  But to prevail, Leinster need more than just internationals returning to the lineup.

The battle will more than likely be at its fiercest in the back row.  There was talk of Justin Tipuric making the Ospreys side but even though this didn't happen, their trio of Bearman, Lewis and Baker are well capable of causing mischief and given Jordi Murphy is our most-capped starter, we will need to not only hit the ground running but also stay on the right side of referee Mitrea.

So I suppose all that leaves for us to do it sit tight and wait for the action to begin.  Back in the Heineken Cup meeting in January a sill Ian Evans yellow helped victory fall into our laps, but you certainly cannot count on similar happening again.

The bookies have us 14 point winners.  Sorry, I know I should be positive, and I know they've been scarily accurate this season, but I can't see us hitting that.  My gut is telling me we'll get the win but with less than four tries and by 5-7 points.  As always, I will be delighted for the turf accountants to be proven right again!

OSPREYS : 15 Dan Evans 14 Aisea Natoga 13 Andrew Bishop 12 Hanno Dirksen 11 Tom Grabham 10 Sam Davies 9 Martin Roberts
1 Marc Thomas 2 Sam Parry 3 Dmitri Arhip 4 Lloyd Peers (Capt) 5 Tyler Ardron 6 Joe Bearman 7 Sam Lewis 8 Dan Baker
REPLACEMENTS 16 Scott Otten 17 Gareth Thomas 18 Cai Griffiths 19 Rynier Bernardo 20 Ieuan Jones 21 Tom Habberfield 22 Josh Matavesi 23 Dafydd Howells

The following players were unavailable due to international commitments:  Scott Baldwin, Dan Biggar. Aaron Jarvis, Alun Wyn Jones, James King, Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb.

The following players were unavailable for selection through injury: Morgan Allen – Ankle, Ashley Beck – Soft tissue, Ryan Bevington – Groin, Ifereimi Boladau - Knee, Jeff Hassler - Ligaments, Duncan Jones –Ligaments, Ross Jones – Ligaments, Nicky Smith – Pectoral tear, Tom Smith – Knee, Jonathan Spratt - Knee, De Kock Steenkamp – Achilles, Eli Walker - Ankle

Sidenote : we love the way the Ospreys give the status of their entire squad when they announce their lineups.  Even if they're being "economical with the truth" in some cases, something is definitely better than nothing when it comes to info!

Guinness Pro12
At RDS Arena, 5.15pm Live on TG4/Sky Sports
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR, 32nd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton, Stuart Gaffikin (both IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Denis Templeton (IRFU)
TMO: Alan Rogan (IRFU)

*****

Also on Saturday...

LEINSTER A v Carmarthen Quins
British &Irish Cup
Donnybrook Stadium, Kickoff 1pm

Leinster A : 1. Ian Prendiville 2. Aaron Dundon 3. Royce Burke Flynn 4. Gavin Thornbury 5. Ben Marshall 6. Dan Leavy 7. Josh Van Der Flier 8. Peadar Timmins
9. Luke McGrath>(c) 10. Cathal Marsh 11. Mick McGrath 12. Tom Daly 13. Brendan Macken 14. Sam Coghlan Murray 15. Cian Kelleher
Replacements: 16. Sean McCarthy 17. Jeremy Loughman 18. Ross Molony 19. Nick Timoney 20. Nick McCarthy 21. Steve Crosbie 22. Tom Farrell

Carmarthen Quins team can be found here

Thanks to our narrow defeat against "Carmarthen" (I use quotes because  in reality it's more of a Scarlets A side with players borrowed from different clubs) in October, our B&I Cup pool 5 is wide open as you can see from the table...

POSB&I CUP POOL 5GPFAPTS
1LEINSTER 'A'381569
2JERSEY479829
3CARM QUINS372778
4PLYMOUTH479967

Plymouth Albion did Leinster a big favour in beating Jersey last night...now if we win our two home games we shouldn't need anything from our trip to the Channel Islands in our final fixture in the pool.

And Quins aren't just a threat in this competition...back home in Wales they are second in the Premiership with seven wins out of eight so that plus their triumph over us will see them coming to Dublin a lot more confident than many teams we have seen at old HQ over the years.

It is definitely an interesting lineup Girvan Dempsey is sending out, with several players looking to prove they should be in contention for the first team.  Luke McGrath leads out the side (giving Leinster two scrum half captains this weekend) and Cathal Marsh has a nother chance to show what he could possibly do at Pro12 level.

On the wings there is an abundance of pace in Mick McGrath and Sam Coghlan-Murray and I will be surprised if at least one of them doesn't get on the scoresheet.

But since this year for the first time we see B&I matches taking place on Pro12 weekends, it means that with players being rested on top of injuries, the squad is stretched further than it ever has so it will be interesting to see how quickly they can gel together on the day.

History suggests that we generally come out well on top in these matches...hopefully this encounter will be no different.

We're planning to have a go at "Liveblogging" the match - stay tuned to HarpinOnRugby on social media for a link to a page where you should be able to see updates throughout the contest.  Fingers crossed all the technology works!

#COYBIB  JLP
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