Jones switches as Ospreys eye Exiles
October 14, 2010
Ryan Jones will start in the second-row for the Ospreys © Getty Images
After they saw off Munster in the opening round of the Heineken Cup, London Irish travel to face the Ospreys in Swansea on Friday with plenty of expectation on their shoulders.
The home side suffered a demoralising late defeat to Jonny Wilkinson and Toulon last weekend and will be desperate to get their campaign back-on-track in one of the tournament's most demanding pools.
The backroom staff at the Liberty Stadium have sprung a surprise by naming Ryan Jones in the second-row, although the Exiles will likely be more concerned with their own injury problems than the Wales skipper's return to fitness.
Ospreys - Player to Watch: A start was vital to Jones with Wales' November Tests looming but the national skipper probably wouldn't have wanted it to be in the second-row. He's a heart and soul player, however, and will go all out - it remains to be seen how effective he will be at both the set piece and as a ball-carrier.
Ospreys - Team News: Jones' place in the second-row means that Ian Gough drops out of the starting XV and onto the bench, while Jonathan Thomas retains the No.8 jersey.
London Irish - Player to Watch: An awesome finisher when given a yard of space, does Topsy Ojo have the all-round game to back-up for the absent Delon Armitage at fullback? He'll be tested by the Ospreys' kicking triumvirate of Dan Biggar, James Hook and Lee Byrne.
London Irish - Team News: Youngster Jonathan Joseph moves into Ojo's vacated wing berth, while classy Kiwi centre Dan Bowden will make his tournament debut in place of Elvis Seveali'i. Tongan international Chris Hala'ufia replaces the injure Declan Danaher at openside.
Key Battle: With Danaher joining Steffon Armitage, Richard Thorpe and James Gibson on the injured list, a lot will ride on how the Exiles can combat the Ospreys' marauding Kiwi flankers Jerry Collins and Marty Holah.
Trivia: The Ospreys are currently on their best run of home form in the Heineken Cup, having won their last nine games at the Liberty Stadium.
Stats: Armitage's absence robs them not only of his long-range goal-kicking but also his try-scoring prowess - he's the Exiles' leading try-scorer in the Heineken Cup with nine.
"Ryan is a great team man, he has no issue at all with doing this for the team, which is exactly the kind of response we expected from him. They were both told the situation at the same time, we explained the logic to them and there were no issues." - Ospreys director of coaching Scott Johnson
"Ospreys will be disappointed not to have come away from Toulon without the win and Swansea is always a tough place to play, especially on a Friday night." - London Irish boss Tony Booth
Prediction: The Exiles' backline has been widely praised this season but they may meet their match this Friday, especially given the Ospreys' apparent back-row superiority. A home win.
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