Ospreys turn full focus on rescue job

If Leinster could be forgiven for straining one eye forward to next week’s appointment with Saracens, then their hosts today will bring a one-track mind to proceedings as they seek to rescue their season.

Ospreys have no European quarter-final to divert them. For the Welsh region, the next month is all about striving to secure a starting spot in next season’s Champions Cup and their determination to do just that is all too obvious.

Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Dan Biggar are just three of six players named in the side who featured for Wales against France seven days ago. In all, they bring 11 internationals to the table today.

Interim head coach Allen Clarke has described the rest of their league fixtures as a series of cup finals as they sit 12 points behind Cardiff Blues who inhabit the third and final automatic European qualification spot in Conference B.

A more realistic target at this point is Connacht, who sit three points north of them in fourth, a slot which brings with it a play-off game against their counterparts from Conference A. Ospreys’ form, four wins from their last five, is good.

Leinster haven’t scrimped on talent either.

Leo Cullen has ushered seven of Ireland’s Grand Slam squad back into his considerations for the trip, although none of those who started last week’s win against England in London are being asked back on the horse.

In fact, the roll call of players who should return for the visit of Saracens to Dublin — Rob Kearney, Garry Ringrose, Jonathan Sexton, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, James Ryan, Dan Leavy and James Lowe — is extraordinary.

Sean O’Brien and Rhys Ruddock have yet to be ruled out either.

As for tonight, Joey Carbery gets a badly-needed start, but at 15 instead of ten where Ross Byrne continues to fill in for Sexton, while the likes of Andrew Porter, Sean Cronin and Jordi Murphy all add to a potent pack.

Scrum-half Luke McGrath is back in harness after his knee injury, although Jordan Larmour has been ruled out with a knee problem.

Leinster sit just three points above Scarlets at the top of the conference with four regular season rounds to go, but they could have done with a Friday kick-off here, or even an earlier start time today, as they juggle domestic and continental commitments.

“We’ve a Saturday night game, which means we get back late, so it is tricky balancing it,” said Cullen. “ We just get on with it. The group will manage the guys who’ve played throughout the week depending on how they’ve come through the game.”

OSPREYS:

D Evans; J Hassler, K Fonotia, A Beck, H Dirksen; D Biggar, T Habberfield; N Smith, S Otten, D Arhip; B Davies, AW Jones; O Cracknell. J Tipuric, S Cross.

LEINSTER:

J Carbery; F McFadden, R O’Loughlin, N Reid, B Daly; R Byrne, L McGrath; J McGrath, S Cronin, A Porter; R Molony, S Fardy; Josh Murphy, Jordi Murphy, J Conan.

Referee:

S McDowell (IRFU).


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