Ospreys aim to halt Blues' resurgence
December 31, 2009
Richie Rees has been in good form for the Blues © Getty Images
The blood and thunder derby season continues in the Magners League with the Ospreys welcoming Cardiff Blues to the Liberty Stadium on New Year's Day.
Both sides tasted victory last time out, with the Ospreys travelling to defeat the Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets thanks to a brace from prop Paul James. The Blues, meanwhile, fought back from a half-time deficit to hammer the Dragons at Cardiff City Stadium thanks to five second-half tries.
The home side will be confident heading into the New Year after two effective performances against Viadana before their Scarlets victory, with several big names beginning to fire. Ricky Januarie has been in good form since arriving on a short-term loan deal from Western Province and could be up against a confident Richie Rees after the in-form Blues No.9 inspired his side's comeback with a sparky display.
British & Irish Lions Adam Jones and Lee Byrne will make their first starts of the season but the home side will be without lock Alun Wyn Jones and fullback James Hook, who are both nursing shoulder injuries, and winger Shane Williams who is still struggling with a hamstring strain.
Ahead of the game, Ospreys Director of Coaching, Scott Johnson, commented, We realise the size of the challenge on Friday if we are going to make it two wins from two in the derbies. Make no mistake about it, we are going up against a very good side. The Blues are a team packed with quality and experience, and with 10 to call upon in their squad they probably have more Lions available than any other side in the Magners League with is an indication of the strength in depth they have. The may not have got the results that they would have hoped for this season so far, but the quality in the squad speaks for itself, and after a good win on Sunday night, they will approach Friday's game with confidence."
As for his own side's form, the Australian added, "We're in an interesting place at the moment, we've put ourselves in a decent position in both the Magners League and the Heineken Cup without really playing as well as want to, or as we are capable of. We've shown flashes of our ability over the last few weeks, and put together a decent run of results, but we still have some way to go yet. It was a good win against the Scarlets last weekend, an excellent result against local rivals, which made the supporters happy, and we showed real grit and character to dig in when they were pressing, but overall, we were disappointed with aspects of our performance and have worked hard on putting these things right for this week."
The Blues will also be without some big name Lions with flanker Martyn Williams and centre Jamie Roberts ruled out of the showdown after picking up shoulder and head knocks respectively in the win against the Dragons. Winger Leigh Halfpenny (knee) and lock Deniol Jones (neck) also remain sidelined while Andy Powell is unavailable due to family reasons. Robin Sowden-Taylor, Casey Laulala and Gary Powell all come into the Blues' starting XV.
Ospreys: Lee Byrne; Tommy Bowe, Sonny Parker, Andrew Bishop, Nikki Walker; Dan Biggar, Ricky Januarie; Paul James, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Ian Gough, Jonathan Thomas, Jerry Collins, Marty Holah, Ryan Jones (capt)
Replacements: Huw Bennett, Cai Griffiths, Ian Evans, Filo Tiatia, Jamie Nutbrown, Jonathan Spratt, Gareth Owen
Cardiff Blues: Ben Blair; Richard Mustoe, Casey Laulala, Tom Shanklin, Tom James; Sam Norton-Knight, Richie Rees; Gethin Jenkins (c), T Rhys Thomas, Gary Powell, Bradley Davies, Scott Morgan, Sam Warburton, Robin Sowden Taylor, Xavier Rush
Replacements: Gareth Williams, Taufa'au Filise, Paul Tito, Ben White, Gareth Cooper, Ceri Sweeney, Gareth Thomas
Tom Hamilton pays a visit to Oxford University Women's Rugby Football Club who have recently made headlines across the world, from Tokyo to New York
"Gentlemen, if you want to see the World Cup going south yet again, you are going the right way about it," John Taylor looks at the state of European rugby
The Heineken Cup proved once again just why it is the best domestic rugby competition in the world at the weekend and Monday Maul picks out some of the key talking points